A murder suspect’s bragging about a January 2019 homicide torpedoed his chances of evading police, authorities say.
After Dalton Dukes fatally shot Joseph Hellman and sunk his body and SUV in the Missouri River, law enforcement officials said, Dukes apparently couldn’t keep his mouth shut about his involvement.
Six people were present for either the slaying or the cover-up, officials said, but Dukes also blabbed to another man, a fellow inmate, and the guy who had given him what police think was the weapon used to kill Hellman.
Those witness statements are vital to prosecutors in a murder case without a body. Hellman, 37, has not been seen or heard from since Jan. 29, 2019.
Douglas County Judge Sheryl Lohaus ruled Friday that Dukes, 30, of Council Bluffs, will stand trial on a first-degree murder charge and two weapons charges.
Hellman was killed after he sold Dukes and his girlfriend counterfeit methamphetamine, Omaha Police Detective Michael Oliver testified Friday.
The couple gave Hellman about $800 along with iPads and a Michael Kors watch in exchange for what they thought was a pound of meth. They soon figured out that the meth was fake.
On Jan. 29, 2019, Dukes went to a home near 39th and Fort Streets with his girlfriend and a few other people. Witnesses later told police that he wanted to confront Hellman, pistol-whip him and rob him.
A woman who was at the home saw Dukes and another person enter through the back door. She ran downstairs and heard a “scuffle” and one gunshot, Oliver said.
Dukes then told another man who was in the home and the person he entered with that if they wanted to save Hellman’s life, they should call 911 and make up a story that he shot himself, according to a Pottawattamie County inmate whom Dukes later told about the shooting, Oliver said.
But no one called 911. Dukes and another man carried Hellman into the back of his own Ford Explorer, Oliver said, quoting witnesses. Hellman was gasping for breath and making a gurgling sound, and he seemed unconscious, witnesses said.
Dukes and his girlfriend got into Hellman’s SUV and drove it a private campground near Pacific Junction, Iowa, while another car followed them, witnesses said.
Dukes put a rock on the accelerator, and the Explorer lurched forward, eventually submerging in the Missouri River along with Hellman’s body, witnesses told police.
A woman who had been at the campsite took detectives there on March 13, 2019.
In the next few days, historic floods inundated the area. FBI divers have said they think that an object about the size and shape of a car is near the boat ramp, but it’s not safe to retrieve it because the river is flowing too fast, Oliver said.