Preliminary hearing set for Kona man in fatal collision

  • Christopher Helmlinger, left, stands next to defense attorney Michael Schlueter on Friday in Hilo Circuit Court. (TOM CALLIS/Tribune-Herald)

  • TOM CALLIS/Tribune-Herald Christopher Helmlinger, left, stands next to defense attorney Michael Schlueter on Friday in Hilo Circuit Court.

HILO — A 21-year-old man accused of causing a traffic collision Wednesday morning that killed a Hawaii Fire Department captain made his initial appearance Friday in Hilo District Court.

Christopher Raymond Helmlinger is charged with manslaughter and second-degree negligent homicide stemming from the collision that killed 49-year-old David Alan Mahon of Kailua-Kona.

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Police say the crash occurred on Mamalahoa Highway (Highway 190) near the 14-mile marker, just south of the intersection with Saddle Road, also known as Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

According to police, Helmlinger was driving a 2006 white Honda Pilot sport-utility vehicle and had overtaken several vehicles in a single pass at speeds above the posted limit of 50 mph.

Helmlinger’s attorney, Michael Schlueter, asked Judge Kanani Laubach to consider supervised release, which doesn’t require cash bail, or to reduce Helmlinger’s bail of $100,000. Schlueter said he and his client “respect and understand the need for reasonable bail in this matter.”

“Mr. Helmlinger has no prior contacts with law enforcement in his life,” Schleuter told the judge. “He is 21 years old. … He does have a verified residence in Hawaii. He does have verified employment. I have discussed the matter with Mr. Helmlinger, and I’ve been in contact with his family, extensively. On his own devices, Mr. Helmlinger could probably post approximately $25,000.”

Deputy Prosecutor Adrienne Shergill objected to Schlueter’s request and asked Laubach to maintain Helmlinger’s bail.

“While the defendant does not have a prior conviction history … the allegations in this case are absolutely horrific in that defendant was traveling at a high rate of speed on Highway 190,” Shergill said. “Defendant was seen by five witnesses passing four to five cars at the time. Instead of braking, the defendant continued at this rate, thereby colliding with an oncoming motorcycle. The driver of the motorcycle was instantly killed at the scene.”

Laubach denied the defense request, then said the clerk had just handed her some paperwork.

“Apparently, somebody posted your $100,000 bail, so you’re going to be processed out,” the judge told Helmlinger, who was then ordered to appear for a preliminary hearing at 2:30 p.m. June 17 in Kona District Court.

Manslaughter is a Class A felony punishable by up to 2o years imprisonment upon conviction, while second-degree negligent homicide is a Class C felony that carries a potential five-year prison term.

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The charges are alternatives to each other, and Helmlinger can’t be convicted of both charges.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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