May 18--A Madison County grand jury indicted Collinsville Police Officer Luke Tillman with four felony counts of obstructing justice for lying in a police report and hiding evidence connected with a felony case against his neighbor.
The indictment returned on Thursday stated that Tillman knowingly provided false information in a police report he submitted regarding a traffic stop and arrest of Cheryl Helfrich, 50.
"He just had a vendetta against me," Helrich said. "I don't know why. I was a mind-your-own-business kind of neighbor. He told people that he was going to put me in prison no matter what it took."
On Nov. 16, Tillman stopped Helfrich in the neighborhood they shared outside Collinsville city limits for failing to display registration. Helfrich possessed a valid driver's license and had no outstanding warrants.
"I was scared to death," she said.
After a search of the car turned up a potential "crack pipe," Helfrich was arrested by Tillman. When the lab results were completed, Collinsville police asked the Madison County State's Attorney's Office to issue a felony against Helfrich.
She spent two nights in jail before she was released on bail.
Helfrich said she became afraid to go to the gas station to get cigarettes for fear Tillman would pull her over. Helfrich admitted during a telephone conversation on Friday afternoon that she struggled with her addiction to crack cocaine and spent nearly a year in a coma from an overdose. Helfrich said she stopped using crack months before the Nov. 16 traffic stop by Tillman, her neighbor.
Based on the review of the case, including Tillman's report, Helfrich was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance on Jan. 18.
While defending Helfrich's case, Tyler Bateman, Helfrich's attorney, notified prosecutors that he had information showing Helfrich did have a valid temporary registration affixed to her car and this was not indicated in Tillman's report. Bateman also asked whether a video and audio record was made of the stop because there was no mention of it in Tillman's report.
Prosecutor Jim Buckley asked Collinsville Police Department Scott Williams to investigate because, per department procedure, all stops are to be audio and video recorded. The department policy also requires that if the stop results in a felony charge, the video must be logged into evidence.
The investigation uncovered several discrepancies, according to Gibbons.
Collinsville police were able to retrieve the in-dash video from a backup system and found that Tillman failed to note in his report that there was a video and audio recording of the stop and the video revealed that there was a valid temporary registration affixed to Helfrich's car. The audio and video recording also revealed that Helfrich was Tillman's neighbor.
On March 13, prosecutors dismissed the case against Helfrich.
Bateman declined to discuss his involvement in the investigation, but said that prosecutors acted "very appropriately" in dealing with his client.
Tillman, 34, has been placed on paid leave, Williams said.
"Our system is not based on convicting persons at all costs. When filing felony charges against any citizen, causing them to be arrested, fingerprinted, booked and separated from their families, we must rely on the police reports being factually accurate, truthful and without omissions. In this case, my warrant office was presented with a police report that was false, misleading and not factually accurate," Gibbons said.
"I commend Chief Williams and the Collinsville Police Department for immediately investigating this mater and bringing it to our attention. The public must be able to have confidence that the justice system is fair and that no one is above law. I am committed to maintaining the highest standard of justice for the people of Madison County."
Tillman joined the Collinsville Police Department in 2007.
His bail was set at $10,0000.
Copyright 2012 - Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.