BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - Fourteen years after a Butler County man took the life of his girlfriend, her family members and friends are advocating to keep him in prison for good.
July 6, 2006 is a dark day in the memories of Lindsey “Tara” Lakes’s closest friends and family members. It has become forever etched in their minds as the last time 21-year-old Lakes was alive.
“This did not have to happen," Rachel Oliver, Lakes’s friend, said. "This happened at the hands of a man who had no right to take somebody else’s life.”
Lakes, described as loyal and devoted, was willing to do anything and everything for her loved ones. In the hours before her life was taken, friends say she was preparing to host a birthday party for her daughter, who was turning one.
“She was a very big personality," Amanda Garrison, Lakes’s friend, said. "She was kind of one of those people that if she loved you, she loved you to the fullest.”
At the time of her death, Lakes lived with her boyfriend, also the father of her child, Richard “Richie” Helsinger, in a home along Wardlow Drive in Butler County. On July 6, 2006, their residence became the scene of Helsinger’s crime.
“He choked her to death and then was there with her for several hours, and at one point, he left, and she was there dead, and their daughter was there alone,” Garrison said.
Evidence that came out during court proceedings indicated that Lakes had fought back in an attempt to save her own life.
Helsinger, 27, ultimately walked up to officers and confessed, according to police. He was later convicted of murder.
The deadly act of domestic violence left Lakes’s friends stunned and unable to understand why it happened.
“Him hitting her or calling her a bad name or something along those lines, that would’ve been like, ‘Oh my goodness I can’t believe he did that,’ but to hear that he killed her, I just never would’ve imagined it in a million years," Summer Hampton, Lakes’s friend, said.
Fourteen years later, Lakes’s loved ones are still struggling, but they are focused on advocating in Lakes’s honor. Helsinger could be released from prison in 2021, so they are petitioning to stop his possible parole.
“I don’t want to know what would happen," Michelle Forch, Lakes’s friend, said. "I don’t want the chance to happen, and Tara’s gone, and in my opinion, he should stay where he’s at.”
Every day, Lakes continues to have a lasting impact on those she loved, helping her friends survive their greatest struggles, even from beyond the grave.
“I was in an abusive relationship after Tara’s death, and that to me was kind of my eye-opening point,” Hampton said. "She lost her life because of someone that she trusted and she loved, and I had to get out for that reason.”
Before Lakes’s murder, Helsinger had run-ins with the law.
He was found guilty of assault in 1999. His parole hearing is set for May 2021.
Lakes’s friends said they are already collecting petition signatures now so they are as prepared as possible when the day comes.
To see their petition, visit Change.org.
See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Click here to report it.