By Lara Bricker
Hampton Union, Tuesday, April 6, 2004
HAMPTON - Helen Garland sat quietly in the Hampton District Court Monday morning, speaking only once to thank a sheriff's deputy who removed her handcuffs when she was moved to the defense table.
Garland, 74, of 10 Philbrook Terrace, was scheduled for a probable hearing on three counts of first-degree assault in connection with the death of her 85-year-old sister, Alice Keyho. Because the charges are felonies, they are prosecuted at the superior court level. A judge has to find that the authorities have presented enough evidence in the case to support the charges before they are bound over to the higher court.
Garland's probable cause hearing was postponed until Tuesday, April 13, at 1 p.m., at the request of Public Defender James Boffetti, who was assigned to Garland's case Monday morning. Boffetti told Judge Francis Frasier that Garland had mailed out paperwork seeking court-appointed counsel but that his office had not yet received it. Frasier said he would assign Boffetti to the case for now.
Boffetti's request came after a closed-door meeting in Judge Frasier's chambers with the judge, Boffetti, Senior Assistant Attorney General Michael Delaney and Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Dunn. Nothing was said about the discussion inside chambers.
Boffetti said after the brief hearing that he wasn't prepared to make a lengthy statement about the case as he was still receiving discovery and information about the charges. When asked how Garland's mood was when he met with her in a small room off the courtroom, he said, "I met this woman for the first time today. She seemed to be fine."
Garland remains in the Hillsborough County jail in lieu of $25,000 cash or surety bail. Neither Boffetti or Delaney said they knew why Garland had not been able to post bail. Boffetti said he could ask for a bail reduction during the hearing next week.
Helen Garland is escorted from Hampton District Court Monday Morning. Her probable cause hearing was postponed until 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 13. Photo by Lara Brickner.
"Jail is not a nice place to be, it's more of a hardship for someone who's 74 years old," he said.
Garland was arrested on March 26 after she allegedly admitted to kicking and beating her older sister, who was found dead on an enclosed porch at the home they shared on March 23. Delaney said future charges have not been ruled out in the case, including possible murder charges, but that the investigation is ongoing. The exact cause and manner of Keyho's death is still not known as certain tests from an autopsy done by Deputy State Medical Examiner Jennie Duval have not come back, he said.
"We have not ruled out any potential charges," Delaney said Monday morning.
Garland called 911 at 6:40 a.m. on Tuesday, March 23. She told police her sister had fallen down the stairs between the kitchen and an enclosed porch. The initial autopsy exam by Duval found Keyho had suffered extensive visible and internal injuries including 22 broken ribs, two black eyes, abrasions on her face, brain hemorrhaging and a post-mortem abrasion on her back that appeared to be from being dragged.
Garland later told police she was not happy about having to take in her sister last May and felt she was a burden. She said she had hit her sister Sunday, March 21, but didn't mean to kill Keyho. She also said she had hit her sister before that day.
Garland later told police during an interview that she beat her sister in the kitchen on March 21, then threw her some wet paper towels and told her to clean herself and the floor. She then allegedly dragged Keyho's body onto an enclosed porch, where she left her until Tuesday morning when she called 911.
Keyho previously lived with her brother in Massachusetts, but had to move after he suffered a heart attack. According to a source who knows Garland, Keyho's brother moved in with his daughter - Garland's niece - who was building a new house. The house did not have a room for Keyho, who was sent to live with Garland. The source said it was common knowledge that the two sisters did not get along.
Garland said on Sunday her sister was sitting in the kitchen and she "backhanded" her across the mouth, causing it to bleed, an affidavit states. She also said she kicked her a few times, but had slippers on when she did it. Garland told police she may have hit her sister on the head or face at the most four times before the Sunday beating.
"When I hit her, she would bite her lips and bleed," Garland reportedly told police.