Murder charge filed in deadly Belltown police chase

SEATTLE -- A Seattle man accused of crashing a stolen truck and killing a passenger while trying to flee police has been charged with murder.

King County prosecutors contend Curtis E. Jones was trying to ditch police on Sept. 18 when he crashed a stolen Toyota pickup in Belltown. Sheila Helvie, a 57-year-old passenger in the truck, suffered life-threatening injuries when Jones struck a building and died three weeks later.

Prosecutors contend Helvie was killed as part of another crime, which would make Jones eligible for a second-degree murder conviction if prosecutors prevail. Jones, 46, has also been charged with vehicular assault, reckless endangerment and driving without a license.

According to charging papers, a Seattle officer spotted the stolen truck at 6 a.m. the morning of the crash in the 200 block of Blanchard Street. The officer pulled behind the truck, prompting its occupants to toss what prosecutors describe as two or three "bindle-like items" from the vehicle.

When the officer tried to pull the truck over, its driver - identified by prosecutors as Jones - accelerated through a red light and into an alley between Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim told the court.

Writing the court, a Seattle detective noted the pickup was traveling at extraordinary speeds on the narrow alley as it blew through sidewalks and cross streets. Concerned for the safety of others in the area, the pursuing officer broke off the chase moments before the crash.

As the pickup left the alley onto Wall Street, it glanced off an oncoming Honda CRV and slammed into a building. Officers arrived less than a minute later to find Helvie unconscious in the backseat of the Toyota Tacoma.

Jones and another passenger were injured in the crash, as was the CRV driver, but Helvie suffered the most severe harm. She died 22 days later from injuries sustained in the crash.

Writing the court, Freedheim said Jones tested positive for cocaine and marijuana following the crash, and had a blood-alcohol level of .15, nearly twice the legal limit.

Currently on the loose, Jones has a lengthy criminal history that includes 17 convictions for driving on a suspended license and six drug offenses. Prosecutors have asked that he be held on $750,000 bail when he is apprehended.