MENOMINEE—A former Menominee County Sheriff’s deputy stood mute and formally waived his arraignment in writing Monday as Menominee County Circuit Judge Mary B. Barglind entered not guilty pleas on his behalf to charges relating to sexual assaults of a teen-age boy.
Brian Helfert, 57, Menominee, appeared via zoom from the Ontonagon (Michigan) County Jail, where he has been housed since being convicted of a misdemeanor sex charge involving a different teen-aged male. The arraignment Monday took place in District Courtroom 95-A.
The defendant was bound over for trial on May 24 by District Judge Robert Jamo.
Helfert faces the following 16 felony charges:
• Child sexual abuse activity.
• Eight counts of criminal sexual conduct—first degree. The maximum penalty for each of these counts is life in prison.
• Three counts of criminal sexual conduct—second degree.
• Three counts of criminal sexual conduct—third degree.
• Gross indecency between males.
There also is an enhancer to the charges that categorizes Helfert as a sexually delinquent person.
Helfert’s arraignment Monday lasted less than two minutes. He stood mute through his attorney, Trenton Stupak of Escanaba.
Both Stupak and Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey T. Rogg wanted to address the defendant’s bond issue and the court requested that formal motions be filed and a court hearing would be scheduled on that matter. Helfert is being held on a $250,000 cash/surety bond. The defense wants it lowered and Rogg wants it raised.
At last month’s preliminary hearing, the court heard from two witnesses—a 23-year-old man who said he was in a sexually abusive relationship with Helfert for about six years and the man’s mother. The EagleHerald does not print the names of possible sexual assault victims without their consent.
The alleged victim—who had aspirations of becoming a police officer—told how the former deputy allegedly groped him in his squad car during “ride alongs” while out in the county and on a police boat, just off shore during the city’s Waterfront Festival and how Helfert and he allegedly had sexual relations dozens, if not hundreds, of times in a spare bedroom of Helfert’s Menominee home.
Helfert is due back in court at 9:30 a.m. July 2 for a pretrial conference.
EagleHerald staff writer
MARINETTE—An unfortunate occurrence of random events unfolded Sunday, intersecting in a fateful collision the destinies of a stolen Illinois vehicle and a prominent City of Marinette community art project.
Sunday afternoon at approximately 2 p.m., following a concerned Marinette County resident’s report, notifying law enforcement of the erratic behavior of a vehicle headed eastbound on Highway 64, toward the city, officers with the Marinette Police Department (MPD) responded.
According to MPD Lt. Scott Ries, Marinette officers intercepted the vehicle as it entered city limits, pulling it over a short time later. However, during the ensuing traffic stop, the driver engaged the vehicle and fled the scene.
With MPD in pursuit, the car maneuvered through the intersection where Hall Avenue meets Marinette Avenue, proceeding to careen with forceful contact into one of the large decorative community planters that currently dot the medians and roadside up and down the city’s main thoroughfare.
Part of a community art initiative launched in 2017 by the Downtown Marinette Action Group, the hefty and elaborately planted pots come out each year around Memorial Day, along Marinette and Hall avenues adding an array of summer adornment. Tended all through the season by crews with the city’s Department of Public Works, the pots add a flowery touch to Marinette’s character for commuters traveling through the area. Adorned by local artists, the planters span the avenues at various points from Mickey-Lu Bar-B-Q to the Interstate Bridge and their artfully decorated surfaces pay tribute to various aspects of the Marinette people and way of life, often inspiring curiosity and interest from visitors and residents, alike.
The vehicular impact Sunday sent the pot’s flowers and packed soil sailing, and left a jagged gash down the side of the planter, tearing through the precision of geometric patterns meticulously applied at the tip of an artist’s paintbrush.
However, Sunday’s collision between car and pot represented only the initial moments of an incident that began in Marinette but ultimately unfolded to its conclusion over 150 miles away in Washington County, near Milwaukee.
THE REST OF THE STORY
Leaving behind the ruptured pot, the stolen vehicle continued down U.S. 41 from Marinette, traveling on the wrong side of the road and consequently hitting another vehicle. However, Ries also informed that no injuries resulted from that collision, nor was the fleeing vehicle disabled as it sped down the highway.
“Then due to the risks involved with speeds and traffic, the MPD officers terminated the chase,” Ries said. “And the vehicle continued southbound on 41.”
Over the course of about two hours, the driver managed to traverse approximately four counties before officials in the fifth, Fond du Lac County, re-engaged the pursuit at about 4:15 p.m. following two separate reports that alerted the Fond du Lac Communications Center to a reckless driver heading south on U.S. 41 near Highway 151.
According to Sgt. Logan Will, with the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Department, deputies succeeded in pinpointing the swerving vehicle. Despite sirens and lights, the driver failed to yield to the pursuing officers and continued for approximately 27 miles at highway speeds, crossing one last county border, into Washington County.
At that point, according to an official with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Fond du Lac officials notified Washington County deputies of the impending pursuit closing in on their county line. Washington County lies just south of Fond du Lac.
As the pursuit entered Washington jurisdiction, Washington deputies took the lead. They made the effective deployment of tire deflation devices (a.k.a. “stop sticks”) near County Trunk D. After rolling over the stop sticks the driver managed to continue for some distance before exiting U.S. 41 at Highway 60.
According to a Fond du Lac Sheriff Department’s press release, the vehicle sideswiped another car at that exit, causing damage, and then proceeded to veer off the roadway where it was finally disabled.
Fond du Lac authorities took the 47-year-old male suspect from Berwyn, Illinois, into custody. He faces charges of felony eluding, operating a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent, and numerous traffic citations in Fond du Lac County. Additionally, he faces criminal charges in Marinette and Washington counties.
“With the investigation that the deputies put together … they weren’t able to determine if (the suspect) was impaired,” Fond du Lac’s Sgt. Will said. “It seemed liked his behavior was pretty erratic, however, there was no impairment on board.”
The incident remains under investigation.
According to officials from the departments involved in the pursuit, the entire ordeal, from Marinette County to Washington County resulted in vehicular damage but no injuries.
For Executive Director/CEO Marinette Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce Jacqueline Boudreau that lends the most important point for which to be thankful. She saw the aftermath of the car-planter collision. She knows how much mass—and thus, stopping power—each planter possesses.
“My first thought was that I hope nobody got hurt,” Boudreau said.
However, it does not lessen the impact of a lost piece of artwork on which an artist worked hours creating and one that spent a four-year lifespan adding some colorful beautification to the downtown area. Boudreau feels for the artist.
“All the pots are awesome but that one had a lot of detail,” she said.
But every piece of art comes with a story. Some of it lies in the physical details of the piece, while other components of that story define those chaotic and sometimes intriguing intersections.
With the destruction of the pot, perhaps artists and art lovers can take solace in the following quote attributed to contemporary painter Paul Gardner.
“A painting is never finished—it simply stops in interesting places.”
EagleHerald staff writer
MARINETTE—After one season in melodic deprivation affected by the world’s efforts to thwart the viral proliferation during the 2020 pandemic, the popular community concert series, Concerts in the Park returns to the cities of Marinette and Menominee.
For years, the concerts offered area residents an outdoor venue for local music entertainment through the summer months at both the Great Lakes Memorial Marina Park Bandshell in Menominee and the Chamber of Commerce Performance Stage on Stephenson Island in Marinette.
Coordinated by the Marinette Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Jack’s Fresh Market and several other local businesses, the concerts return this summer after last year’s hiatus due to COVID-19.
“What is exciting about it this year is the fact that we can (actually) do it,” said Chamber Executive Director and CEO Jacqueline Boudreau. “Last year we could not because of the COVID situation.”
Various restrictions implemented by the State of Wisconsin on the size of outdoor gathering put the kibosh on many traditional summer events in 2020 such as Concerts in the Park, the Marinette Logging and Heritage Festival and the Menominee Waterfront Festival. For instance, as COVID-related deaths in Wisconsin surpassed 2,300 in November, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued Executive Order No. 94, which recommended that “all individuals should stay home as much as possible and only make trips when necessary, such as to go to work, pick up groceries, or refill prescriptions.” Various other executive and emergency orders emerged during that time that implemented such mandates as required face masks in public areas and limited the size of gatherings both indoors and out. In addition to canceling community events and the restriction also shut down many social gathering places like bars and restaurants.
This year, with the recent easing of COVID prevention protocol across the state, and with cautious optimism, chamber officials plan to move forward with a total of seven concerts, three in Menominee and four in Marinette.
“Coming out of COVID we have been cautious as far as what we are planning and what we can move ahead with,” Boudreau said. “Our board was confident that we would be OK with the concerts. Because they are outside, we would be able to social distance and follow (both Wisconsin and Michigan) state mandates ... We wanted to give it a real community feel. It’s a way of supporting our local talent and a way of having people gather together again, as a community.”
According to the State of Michigan Coronavirus homepage (Michigan.gov/coronavirous/), beginning June 1 all “broad epidemic orders” were lifted. The state no longer places capacity limits on outdoor activities and residential gatherings. Some indoor restrictions related to capacity limits and face masks remain in place.
In March the Wisconsin Supreme Court ended the state’s mask mandate. When it comes to large gatherings, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services defers to the guidance offered by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When it comes to those who have received a full dosage of COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC states that “people can resume activities (that you did prior to the pandemic) without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
The concerts include both local and regional talent and run from June through the latter half of August with performances on Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. The first concert at Stephenson Island occurs June 17 followed by June 24 with the first performance at the Menominee bandshell. The complete schedule can be found on the Marinette Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page (also see CONCERT DETAILS).
According to Boudreau, a major source of support for this year’s concerts originated with members of the community during a point of purchase “round-up” at Jack’s Fresh Market that occurred in 2019. Initially, those donations raised $4,000 which was slated for the sponsorship of the 2020 series. However, because the concerts were canceled in 2020, the funds carried over to this year.
For Boudreau, and others involved in organizing the performance series, it offers a way to simultaneously give back to the community, support area businesses and promote local talent.
“It’s about how do we get people to frequent area businesses when they are out,” she said. “Do you have a sandwich and grab a drink at one of the local establishments … because you are coming to the concert.”
Each concert occurs on a Thursday and runs from 6 to 8 p.m. Marinette concerts will be held on Stephenson Island, with Menominee concerts at the bandshell.
July 1—Haley Grace & The Rebels
July 15—Chasin Steel
Aug. 12—The Michigan Shivers
June 24—Dirty Deuce
July 22—The No Good
Aug. 19—Community Jazz Ensemble