Michael Helms, 16, of Mesa Kills Mom as Friend Watches; Stepdad Escapes Attack

A 16-year-old boy described by a classmate as a "giant teddy" allegedly beat and choked his mom to death on Saturday morning, then attacked his stepdad.

Michael Roy Helms and his accomplice, 17-year-old Christian Lee Blakely, were being held on $1 million bonds and charged as adults by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. Blakely's accused of watching his friend kill Helms' mother, Tina Helms Spencer, then helping clean up the blood and dispose of her body in a backyard shed.

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Police learned that Helms had been grounded and had argued with his mother earlier -- nothing out of the ordinary for a teenager. Hanging out with Blakely early Saturday morning, Helms told his friend of his plan "and provided [Blakely] with instructions to help him.

The two Gilbert High School students waited for Spencer to arrive at the house in the 2100 block of East Juanita, near Gilbert Road, the only home Helms had ever known. As Blakely "stood in the dark," Helms hit her with a frying pan and hammer, then "choked her in a rage," records state.

Helms handed Blakely his mom's foot, but Blakely dropped it. Yet he followed his friend outside as Helm dragged the dead woman by her legs into the shed. They used a mop and gloves for the cleanup.

Blakely apparently left at that point while Helms waited for his stepfather to come home. It's unclear just when Tina Helms Spencer was murdered. Helms' stepfather arrived just before 4 a.m. and was assaulted. Helms hit the man over the head with the frying pan, punched him, and choked him. But the stepfather escaped the home with relatively minor injuries and contacted police.

Both kids confessed to everything, and their stories matched, Mesa police say.

One TV station interviewed on Monday a schoolmate of Helms' who said the 6-foot-6-inch, 250-pound teen was a "giant teddy" and "stand-up guy." Both teens had aspirations to go into the military.

A box marked "mentally disturbed" was checked by police on Helms' booking sheet, but not on Blakely's.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern