Niles man sent to prison for criminal sexual conduct

Published 12:39 am Friday, May 2, 2003

By By NORMA LERNER / Edwardsburg Argus
CASSOPOLIS -- A Niles man will spend 13 to 30 years in prison for sexually molesting two female sisters under the age of 13. Receiving the prison term Friday morning during a sentence hearing in Cass County Circuit Court was Bruce Allen Helbling, 52, of the 25000 block of May Street. Helbling pleaded no contest before Judge Michael E. Dodge on March 7 to two charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Defended by Attorney James Jesse of Buchanan, he told the court that Helbling is remorseful and has apologized. "He feels badly about the situation," in noting that he has no criminal record. He said he has an exemplary work record. One of the victims addressed the court and said that Helbling impacted her life and the way that she lives. "My life will never be the same. He did bad things to my sister and to me. He can't do it anymore. I pray he comes to God," she said in reading Bible passages.
Interim Prosecutor David Moore recommended that Helbling get the high end of the guideline range, which was 210 months.
His acts will affect the girl for the rest of her life, Moore said.
Helbling tearfully apologized with "all my heart." He said he loved both of the girls and wished he would have had a different impact on their lives.
Dodge recounted that Helbling engaged in acts of sexual abuse with both the girls that happened on a regular basis at an Edwardsburg residence. He said it was premeditated sexual conduct that exploited the girls while their parent was not at home. This influence caused significant psychological damage on both girls. "It is horrifying for someone to experience as much love to engage in this type of conduct," he said. Dodge noted he had no prior criminal record but that the court did conclude he deserved significant punishment.
For each of two counts, Dodge imposed 13 to 30 years with credit for 246 days served to run concurrently. The recorded counts were May 30, 2002, and between January and March, 2000. He was ordered to pay $60 to the Crime Victims Rights fund, $60 for DNA testing and a $150 lab fee.