Man in prison for killing ex-girlfriend charged after admitting to 2 cold case murders, police say

MANASSAS, Va. — A man serving a life sentence for the 2002 killing of his ex-girlfriend in Virginia has been charged with two additional murders, including one dating back to 1987.

Charles Helem, 52, of Manassas, has allegedly admitted to the 1987 killing of Eige Sober Adler, 37, in Fairfax County, as well as the 2002 death of Jennifer Landry, 19, in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Authorities from both jurisdictions announced the developments Wednesday in a joint news conference attended by detectives and prosecutors who have worked the cases over more than three decades.

“We now know even more about the dangers the killer presented to the entire national capital region,” Fairfax County police Chief Kevin Davis said.

Helem is the second alleged serial killer to be identified in the D.C. metro area over the past two months. Anthony Eugene Robinson, 35, of Washington, is accused of killing at least four women in the area since August.

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A fifth woman has also been potentially linked to Robinson, who was dubbed the “Shopping Cart Killer” because of his alleged use of shopping carts to move some victims’ bodies.

Helem is imprisoned in Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison for the murder of his former girlfriend, Patricia Bentley. It was while serving time for killing Bentley, 37, in 2002 that authorities allege Helem confessed multiple times to killing Landry, of Randolph, Massachusetts, that same year.

Landry’s body was discovered Aug. 15, 2002, in a wooded area of Mount Rainier. She had been strangled and her throat was slashed, Prince George’s County police officials said.

“At the time, detectives sought the community’s assistance in identifying the victim,” authorities said in a news release. “She remained unidentified until July of 2005, when she was positively identified through a fingerprint match.”

Meanwhile, Helem had almost immediately become a suspect in the murder of Bentley, who was found strangled April 6, 2002, in her townhouse on Beaujolais Court in Chantilly.

Bentley, a Loudoun County school bus driver and single mother of two sons, had plans to go shopping with a friend that day, but the friend could not reach her. According to Connection Newspapers, the woman and Bentley’s teen son, who had been at his grandmother’s house, went to the townhouse and found Bentley dead on her bedroom floor.

She had been beaten and strangled both by hand and with a phone cord and an extension cord, the newspaper group reported.

Helem, who had lived with Bentley from November 2001 to January 2002, claimed that he had not seen his former girlfriend in several weeks. Testimony at trial indicated, however, that he had accused her the week before of vandalizing his car while it was parked outside her home.

Detectives learned that Helem still had a key to Bentley’s home, which showed no sign of forced entry. His cellphone records put him near her townhouse on April 5, when authorities believed she was slain, and his DNA was found on her breasts and abdomen.

Helem was arrested in September 2002 — the month after Landry’s body was found — and charged with killing Bentley. Following two mistrials, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced in December 2003 to life in prison.

At his sentencing, prosecutors revealed that Helem had a violent criminal history dating back to his teens. Connection Newspapers reported that he spent time between 1997 and 2001 in federal prison for choking his wife until she passed out.

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“He’s been a career criminal for the past 20 years, and he got progressively worse and more violent as he got older,” prosecutor Kim Pace said at the time. “Patricia Bentley had the bad luck simply to exist in his circle of people. The only good thing about him is that he doesn’t have children who’ll suffer the pain and loss of his absence.”

The convicted killer first claimed responsibility for Landry’s killing seven years later, when he wrote to Mount Rainier police detectives from prison. When they attempted to interview him, however, he refused the interview, Prince George’s County authorities said.

He again wrote to cold case detectives in 2017 and, again, refused an interview when the investigators followed up on his letters.

“He initially refused to speak to our detectives,” Prince George’s County police Chief Malik Aziz said Wednesday. “Detectives didn’t give up. They tried again to interview him in 2021, and this time he agreed.”

Watch Wednesday’s news conference below.

It was during the recent interview that Helem told investigators he picked Landry up in Washington, D.C., while soliciting sex for cash. He drove her to Oak Lane in Mount Rainier, where he killed her and dumped her body.

While talking to Maryland officials last fall about Landry’s killing, Helem told them he had information about the unsolved murder of Adler, whose body was found Sept. 8, 1987, in a parking lot behind the Dulles Days Inn in Herndon, Virginia. The Kensington, Maryland, woman had been beaten to death.

According to Fairfax County police officials, Adler’s car was found abandoned about a half-mile from her body, on the shoulder of the Dulles Toll Road.

Helem admitted to Adler’s homicide in October. He was indicted Tuesday in her killing.

“Detectives were able to corroborate this confession with details known only to the killer,” Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said during Wednesday’s news conference.

The same was true of Helem’s alleged confession to Landry’s slaying, authorities said. Aisha Braveboy, the state’s attorney for Prince George’s County, said formal charges are pending against Helem in that case.

“The families of these victims have waited a long time for answers,” Aziz said. “We all collectively hope the charges now brought against Helem provide some comfort to these families.”

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The parents of both Landry and Adler have died in the interim between their deaths and Helem’s alleged admissions.

“Sadly, both of Eige’s parents died never knowing what happened to their daughter,” Davis said. “We hope this indictment brings some sense of closure to her surviving family members and friends.”

Investigators in both jurisdictions are working to determine if Helem is connected to any other homicides in the Washington metro area.

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