It's a mystery that's haunted a family and investigators for more than ten years. Who murdered a Blount county store owner, then simply walked away? Maryville officers are hoping a fresh look at this criminal case can lead to new answers.
It was Labor Day 2002 and most people were looking forward to enjoying the last, long, weekend of the summer. But for a Blount county family, their weekend travel plans quickly took a turn for the worst. Police say a killer walked into Helen Mills' herbal shop in Maryville and strangled her. It's a case that went cold quickly, leaving police to wonder who killed Helen, and her daughter to wonder why. "She was part of this community, and I think that not only do I miss her terribly, this community...It's a loss for them" says Debbie Segar.
Maryville investigator John Brown just re-opened the case. Brown says his biggest advantage may be the fact that he was not part of the original investigation. "Fresh set of eyes, fresh ideas. Being able to evaluate and see which direction to go next. That can sometimes make a big difference."
For more than ten years detectives have never publicly offered many details about the crime, saying that doing so could tip off the killer. What we do know is that Mills' herbal store was pretty much left untouched. Her husband, Doug, organized a reward hoping new clues would turn up, but nothing happened. Mr. Mills passed away a few years ago. "My dad died in my arms. The last thing he did was renew that reward, her name was on his lips. That's what he lived for is to find out who did it." And now, that's what Debbie lives for. Finding an answer and seeking justice, all in the name of a beloved Maryville store owner.
If you have any information regarding the murder of Helen Mills, please contact the maryville police department at at 865-273-3700.