Bosque arson suspect has felony-ridden past

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – KRQE News 13 has learned the suspected Bosque arsonist has a dangerous past. Audie Helms, who neighbors describe as mostly quiet, played a role in a murder almost two decades ago.

The 37-year-old faced a judge for the first time Thursday and is looking at charges of starting a fire on state lands – a felony. Police arrested him Wednesday after more fires popped up along the river near Rio Bravo. On Tuesday, four fires kept crews busy. It’s unclear if he’s behind those.

In court, a public defender said an officer spotted Helms in the area and just assumed he was involved.

According to a criminal complaint, though, an Open Space officer spotted Helms leaving a fire that was set in brush and timber and then saw him use a lighter to start another nearby.

KRQE News 13 has learned the 37-year-old was in big trouble almost 20 years ago.

Online court records out of Idaho show Helms played a role in a murder there in 1995. Investigators said he drove a man to a spot where his friends beat him to death.

Helms struck a plea deal and was convicted of burglary and grand theft auto. The kidnapping charge was dropped. He served four years behind bars.

KRQE News 13 spoke to his neighbors, not too far from the fires, and they describe him much differently. Many were surprised to learn about his latest charges.

“I would never have thought that he would get in to doing things like that,” Mary Valenzuela said. “He seemed like a very good person.”

“We were surprised because Audie never bothers anyone,” Tracy Hall, who lives next door to Helms said.

“He’s quiet, comes and goes, rides his bicycle a lot. I don’t know where he works but he rides his bicycle a lot and doesn’t say much of anything.”

At his first appearance, Helms stayed quiet.

“I don’t know if something came over him or what but he never bothers anybody,” Hall said.

“It’s really sad,” Valenzuela said. “You wonder what goes through people’s minds.”

Helms faces up to two years in prison for this felony arson charge.

Police haven’t said how many more arson charges he could be facing.

In the Idaho case in the 90’s, court records show he had extensive psychological problems. He’s managed to keep off the radar the past few years in New Mexico with only a traffic ticket.

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