Thomas E. Helmbolt–Chiropractor, killer

My first cousin 3x removed is Eugene Gertrude Keith. She met and married Thomas Helmbolt in Idaho, where she grew up. During the First World War she and Thomas moved to Alberta, to Coronation, where they tried their hand at farming and politics. Eugene also tried her hand at infidelity. Turns out she and Helmbolt’s good friend and local journalist Frank Whiteside were having a rather torrid affair. Helmbolt found out, confronted Whiteside, and then shot him in the stomach with a sawed-off shotgun. Whiteside’s dying declaration was to no avail–Thomas was acquitted.

From an article written by Jim Bradley found at the Free Library

When the 187th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force began a recruiting drive in east-central Alberta in 1916, Whiteside was the first in Coronation to enlist. He was forty-two years of age. Two days later, another local man to sign up was Whiteside’s friend and former Liberal campaign manager, Thomas Helmbolt. For Helmbolt, the next twelve months would be hellish. He would discover that his wife and Frank Whiteside were carrying on an affair, he would be charged with murdering Whiteside and, almost a year to the date from his enlistment, he would be seriously injured by a bomb blast at Vimy Ridge…

In court, Eugenie admitted to having improper relationships with Whiteside. These liaisons occurred in Coronation and in Calgary where Whiteside and Helmbolt were in military training at Sarcee Camp. On one occasion, Frank and Eugenie met in the Grunwald Hotel in Calgary, (26) and once they got together at the Helmbolt home in Coronation while Thomas was away.

Sometime in mid-September, 1916, Helmbolt discovered what was going on. At Sarcee Camp, he noticed a letter to Whiteside that seemed to be addressed in Eugenie’s handwriting. Later, he rummaged through Whiteside’s belongings, finding more letters that confirmed the affair.

The revelation devastated Helmbolt. In Coronation, apparently intent on suicide, he borrowed a hacksaw from the local hardware store and sawed the barrels off his shotgun. But instead of taking his own life, on September 24th at 10:30 p.m. he called Whiteside to the local telephone office, which was in a front room of the Helmbolt house. Helmbolt demanded the letters that had been exchanged between Frank and Eugenie. Whiteside refused to hand them over. He later claimed that Helmbolt drew a revolver, that the two wrestled for the gun and that Helmbolt then got his shotgun and fired, inflicting the wounds which were to prove deadly. ..

However, those details of intrigue became secondary to accounts of what actually happened in the telephone exchange building. The Helmbolts both swore it was Whiteside who drew the revolver. In addressing the jury, Justice William Ives clearly favoured that version–in effect that the case was one of self-defence. The jury agreed. After deliberating for about forty minutes, it found Helmbolt not guilty.

Upon his acquittal, Helmbolt reported for duty with the 187th Battalion, which then sailed for England in December, 1916. On May 9, 1917, at Vimy Ridge, Helmbolt suffered injuries to the head, chest and neck, probably from an exploding shell. He was invalided home, spending part of his convalescence at Strathcona Military Hospital in Edmonton. (29)

I am still piecing together the Helmbolt’s story. It involves moving back to the States, Thomas living in Matamoros, his moving back to the states, and the continuing marriage of Thomas and Eugene.

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