Accused killer heads to court as murder trial nears

More than two years after an elderly man was found dead in his New Town Key West apartment, the man accused in his killing went to court Wednesday as his trial nears.

Tod Helfrich, 49, is charged with first-degree murder, grand theft auto and fraudulent use of a credit card stemming from the death of Carl Johanson. Johanson was found dead in his apartment on Sept. 2, 2011, at the Henry Haskins Senior Citizen Plaza on Kennedy Drive. His throat was slashed.

Law enforcement officials have said Helfrich met Johanson at a Duval Street gay bar in the days leading up to the murder.

Orlando police arrested Helfrich the day after Johanson's body was found after a statewide be-on-the-lookout was issued. He was driving Johanson's auto at the time and had taken take Johanson's phone and credit card.

A month after he was arrested, Helfrich, who served state prison time from Sept. 19, 1999, to Nov. 22, 2001, for grand theft, was investigated for sexually assaulting his Keys cellmate. No charges were filed in that incident.

Helfrich appeared Wednesday at the Freeman Justice Center before Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Mark Jones for a hearing, a run-up to his scheduled Jan. 27 trial.

Randleman homicide

On Monday, two other accused Keys killers appeared in front of Monroe County Judge Wayne Miller.

Marathon residents William Dieguez, who turned 24 on Jan. 5, and Sean Roberts, 20 are charged with first-degree murder in the May 22, 2010, shooting death of 18-year-old Big Pine Key resident Frank Randleman.

Dieguez and Roberts are accused of shooting Randleman in his grandmother's home in the Seahorse RV Park during an apparent robbery, possibly related to a drug deal.

The pair was in court Monday for a status hearing ahead of a trial scheduled for March 17. Both have been in custody since their arrests.

Court records indicate attorneys on both sides are going through the evidentiary discovery process. In December, forensics experts were appointed to testify about DNA evidence.