Key West murder trial continues as defense says prosecutors got the wrong man

Tod Helfrich
Tod Helfrich Sheriff’s Office

Florida Keys prosecutors have put the wrong man on trial for murder, a jury in Key West was told by this week by defense attorneys for Tod Helfrich, who is accused of slashing a man’s throat in 2011 at the local senior housing plaza.

Carl Johanson, 66, was found inside his home at Henry Haskins Senior Citizen Plaza on Kennedy Drive on Sept. 2, 2011, with his throat cut and his hands and mouth bound with duct tape. He had also been cut multiple times about his body, prosecutors said.

Police said Johanson, a retiree and Air Force veteran, met Helfrich, a convict who has done time in both Florida and Massachusetts for theft and robbery, days earlier at a Duval Street gay bar, the 801 Bourbon Bar.

Helfrich was arrested on a probation violation in Orlando. He was driving Johanson’s vehicle and had the dead man’s credit cards, police said.

Helfrich, 51, appeared in court before Judge Wayne Miller wearing a gray suit jacket and red tie as jury selection took up most of the week after the trial opened Monday.

Testimony continued Friday as assistant state attorneys Colleen Dunne and Val Winter called witnesses, starting with officers who arrested Helfrich in Orlando one day after Johanson’s body was discovered.

Helfrich faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder but prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen on Twitter