Man serving 2 life sentences in Virginia now faces Prince George’s Co. charge in 2002 slaying

A Virginia man, already sentenced twice to life sentences without the possibility of parole, has been moved to a Maryland jail cell as he prepares to admit his guilt in a two-decade-old Prince George’s County murder.

Shortly before Christmas, 53-year-old Charles Helem was transferred out of Virginia’s notorious Red Onion State Prison and taken to Maryland. He made his first court appearance last week in Prince George’s County, and within the next two weeks, Helem is expected to be indicted on murder and assault charges in the 2002 killing of 19-year-old Jennifer Landry.

Helem was first arrested for the July 2002 killing of a woman in Centreville, Virginia, and sentenced for that crime in 2003. Over time, he had reached out to authorities to indicate he might have knowledge about other crimes, too — and finally, in October 2021, he was willing to speak about them.

Last month, Helem pleaded guilty to the 1987 murder of a Kensington, Maryland, woman whose body was found near a Herndon, Virginia, motel. After he went through the process of pleading guilty, confessing details of the crime that prosecutors said only the killer would know, the process of transferring him to Maryland began.

Helem was also linked to the Landry’s killing.

Helem is currently represented by a public defender, but the State’s Attorney’s Office in Prince George’s County told WTOP that he is in the process of retaining his own counsel. Once Helem is indicted and hires a lawyer, he will need to talk with prosecutors about formally pleading guilty to Landry’s killing.

Helem told police he picked up Landry in D.C. but ended up killing the Massachusetts native in Mount Rainier. Her body was found in a wooded area there on Aug. 15, 2002, but it wasn’t until 2005 that she was identified.

Helem also told authorities he would plead guilty to both the cold case in Herndon and Mount Rainier, and that he would accept a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if it meant spending the rest of his life in a Maryland prison, instead of Red Onion.

An executive agreement between the governors’ offices in both Maryland and Virginia led to his transport to Maryland last month.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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