The Connecticut Supreme Court has vacated a felony murder conviction in a case that included the first Amber Alert ever issued in the state.
The high court ruled Thursday that 24-year-old Jennifer Helmedach's lawyers should have told her about a plea offer before she testified about her role in the September 2004 slaying of 20-year-old Faye Bennett in Meriden.
Helmedach acknowledged she was in the room when Bennett, who was pregnant, was stabbed and strangled by Helmedach's boyfriend, David Bell. They fled, resulting in the Amber Alert for Helmedach's then-1-year-old daughter, who was later found safe.
Helmedach's appellate lawyer, Conrad Seifert, said she has served 11 1/2 years in prison, 18 months longer than the original plea offer.
A Chief State's Attorney's Office spokesman said prosecutors are reviewing the decision.
Helmedach's attorney said they view the decision as a success in a long battle.
"I'm thrilled that the Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. It has been a long haul," said attorney Conrad Seifert.
Seifert said the state now has 90 days to ask the courts for a new sentencing or to reinstate the old one. If the state does not fight to keep the original murder conviction and 35-year setence in place, Seifert said he and his client will go to court and plead guilty to a robbery charge, which carries a 10-year sentence. Because Helmedach has already served time, that would make her a free woman, Seifert said.