WOODSTOCK – A Cary businessman was sentenced on Thursday to seven years in prison for offering a man $3,000 to kill a former employer in March 2011.
Stanley J. Helmer, 60, pleaded guilty in June to attempted solicitation of murder for hire and solicitation of aggravated discharge of a firearm, both Class 1 felonies. As part of his sentence, Helmer also must pay a $10,000 fine.
Prosecutors played several tapes between the man Helmer solicited, referred to in court documents as "John Hire."
The target was Randy Smith of Midwest Woodwork and Veneering Inc., who hired Helmer in 2009 to build a 24,000-square-foot building on Chicago Street in Cary.
On the tape, Helmer tells the man "just pop him one," but also discusses breaking Smith's legs.
"If you put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his f-----g life, I'd be happy," Helmer said.
Helmer also met with the hitman, a convicted felon who was wearing a wire for the Illinois State Police, and gave him $500 for a gun while they were at a McDonald's.
Smith read a victim impact statement, saying that Helmer's actions caused him and his family incomprehensible emotional distress. He said he has been unable to continue his business.
"Stanley Helmer took away the livelihood of many people during this challenging economic time," he said.
Smith said he started sleeping with a baseball bat. His stress levels were so high that he moved out of state because felt he no longer could live in Cary.
On Helmer's behalf, in addition to 44 letters written to the judge describing his good character, several of his friends and family members took the stand.
His sister, Janice Morrison, said that Helmer is the one person whom their mother, who has Alzheimer's, still recognizes. He would go to visit her every day, she said.
One woman described Helmer's donated time, work and material so that her special-needs daughter could have a pool.
Helmer's lifelong friend, Tim Shepard, said that they saved two men's lives in the 1970s by pulling them out of a car after a crash. Helmer's character flaw is that he "tells tales," Shepard said.
Helmer also spoke, apologizing to Smith, as well as his own family. Bitterness took over, he said.
"This is not who I am," Helmer said. "This is not who I was raised to be."
When asked by the judge what Smith did to anger him, Helmer said that Smith owed him $100,000 – but that he has "let it go."
Prosecutors said that Helmer was given multiple outs, but it was clear on the tapes that he wanted to go forward with the plot.
Helmer's attorney, Timothy Mahoney, said that his client never actually committed to a time, a place or a method for the hit.
"There's a lot of ignorance, and he said some of the stupidest things you'll ever hear," Mahoney said.
Judge Condon said he could not reconcile "the two Helmers" – the family man and good citizen his friends proclaim him to be and the "conniving, deceptive, violent" Helmer on the tapes.
"The conduct displays a lack of empathy I'd expect from a reptile," Condon said.
As part of the plea deal, additional charges were dropped relating to allegations that Helmer tried to solicit an inmate at the McHenry County Jail to break the legs of the hitman-turned-informant in the first case.