Christa Helm was killed in February 1977, but her murder remains a mystery. After her passing, the love diary and tapes she was warned not to keep disappeared.
When Christa Helm became an actress, she probably pictured herself starring in films and TV shows, and with the right roles, maybe even winning some awards. Unfortunately, her career and life were cut short sooner than expected.
Christa Helm at her apartment in New York City on November 21, 1974 | Photo: Getty Images
CHRISTA HELM'S CAREER: SHORT
Born in Milwaukee in November 1949, Helm was determined to make it big in the entertainment industry, and she would let everybody know that from a young age.
According to one of her close friends Darlene Thoresen, Helm had a "vindictive side" and would do anything possible to achieve fame.
Lennie Barin and Christa Helm in the mid-1970s | Photo: Getty Images
She was also a complicated, beautiful, and overly charismatic person whose warmth regularly made others feel drawn to her, which probably led her to a shot-gun wedding as a teenager.
When Helm was just 17 years old, she married a karate studio owner in Chicago. The morning after their honeymoon, Helm's husband was nowhere to be seen. Nicole, her daughter, was born a few months later.
Becoming a renowned Hollywood actress is challenging, and doing so while raising a child at a young age is even more. Helm knew it, so she left Nicole with a nanny in Milwaukee and moved to New York City to pursue an acting career.
Christa Helm and Ron Galella at her apartment in New York City on November 21, 1974 | Photo: Getty Images
Helm's foray into the entertainment industry dates back to 1974 – about seven years after Nicole's birth – when she appeared in the low-budget horror film "Legacy of Satan."
She landed the leading role in "Let's Go for Broke," another low-budget movie described by producer Stuart Duncan as a "James Bond spoof."
Apart from singing the movie's theme song, Helm portrayed Jackie Broke, a TV reporter that gets herself kidnapped to save other brainwashed women working at a pleasure palace.
The film was not as successful as expected, but Helm gave her best. She even hurt her back filming one of the fight scenes and ended up in the same hospital former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath was treating his bad knee.
In 1976, after moving to Los Angeles, she landed small parts in "Starsky & Hutch" and "Wonder Woman." The following year, her life ended in a very tragic yet mysterious way.
[Thoresen] thought her longtime friend was "playing with fire."
HELM'S MURDER: MYSTERIOUS
Helm used to attend many Hollywood parties to make herself relevant and meet the right people. As a result, she met everyone from Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty to financier Bernie Cornfeld and the Shah of Iran.
The actress slept with some of the men and women she met along the way, too. Her sex life probably would have been irrelevant if she had not kept a not-so-secret "love diary," filled with names and even a rating system.
Instead of keeping that information private, Helm would talk about her diary (and tape recordings) with many of her friends. Some warned her to be careful as the people in her records probably didn't want to be there.
Thoresen was one of them. She knew it was dangerous and thought her longtime friend was "playing with fire," especially because people believed the fame-seeking actress was getting ready to blackmail her lovers.
At some point, Helm told Thoresen that she had gotten into "something deep" and would stay off the radar for a while. On February 12, 1977, Helm's dead body was found outside her agent's home in West Hollywood.
Given that she had multiple stab wounds, authorities believed it was a crime of passion – the murderer knew Helm. It didn't make the case any easier, though, as several people might have wanted to kill her due to her complicated life.
When the investigation started, police thought her murder could have been connected to Sal Mineo's death. Mineo – James Dean's co-star in "Rebel Without a Cause – was stabbed in the same neighborhood on February 12, 1976. Both crimes had no connection, though.
[Tony Sirico] didn't remember Helm and denied going to her apartment.
DIARY AND TAPES: GONE
Helm's diary was the obvious next step in the investigation, but it vanished. It is believed that it was in her purse, which couldn't be found at the crime scene.
As per the tapes, most of them disappeared from her room, too, and "The Sopranos" actor Tony Sirico may have been involved. Before being an actor, Sirico was a "tough guy" who grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where many mob-related people lived.
Between the 1950s and the 1970s, Sirico was arrested 28 times for assault, robbery, disorderly conduct, and weapons charges. He also was familiar with some of the people Helm knew.
According to Tom Harris of the LA County Sheriff's Department cold case unit, Sirico was sent to Helm's residence shortly after her passing to watch over her roommate. There, he supposedly removed some of the tapes from the victim's room.
Sirico was not interviewed in 1977 but 2006 when the investigation was reopened thanks to Nicole's pressure. He said he didn't remember Helm and denied going to her apartment.
Although he was not considered a suspect but a witness, his attorney stopped the interview before obtaining any helpful information.
DNA TESTS: INCONCLUSIVE
Using new technologies, investigators could run DNA tests on tissues found in one of Helm's fingernails. It was from another woman. Police interviewed and requested oral swabs of some suspects, including Patti Collins.
Collins, Helm's very jealous girlfriend, told investigators that she didn't know the victim and was never in Southern California. Her DNA was also tested, but given that the investigation is still ongoing, it is fair to say she had nothing to do with the crime.
At the moment, jealousy and Helm's love diary and tapes are believed to be the possible motives in Helm's murder. Nicole is still hopeful that the person who killed her mother will be found.
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