By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, August 13, 2004
HAMPTON - Helen Garland, 75, is afraid of what may happen to her if she is convicted of murdering her sister.
"I'd rather kill myself than go to jail," said Garland, after learning that she had been indicted on a second-degree murder charge in the death of her 85-year-old sister, Alice Keyho.
A Rockingham County grand jury indicted Garland on the charge this week.
That charge, plus six other earlier charges of first-degree assault, could put Garland behind bars for the rest of her life if she is convicted.
"They don't know what really happened that night," said Garland. "I know the truth."
In an interview with The Hampton Union, Garland said she would like nothing more than to tell her side of what happened that night, but has been instructed by her lawyer not to discuss the case.
But Garland did say that she never laid a finger on her sister. She also said that her alleged confession was made out of frustration after police officers wouldn't take no for an answer.
What happened to her sister is not what has been reported, said Garland, who declined to elaborate on the advice of her attorney.
According to the information from police previously released by a district court judge, Garland admitted to beating her sister, kicking her, and dragging her across the floor.
According to her autopsy report, Keyho suffered bruises on her face and chest, two black eyes, bleeding between her brain and skull and 22 broken ribs.
Although she wouldn't discuss the case, Garland did talk about her relationship with her sister, her four-month stay in prison and the reaction she has received from the community since being released on bail.
"I loved my sister," Garland said. "My sister loved me. We had a good relationship."
Alice Keyho moved in with Garland on May 24, 2003, after their brother, with whom she previously lived, had a heart attack. The brother moved in with his daughter - Garland's niece - who was building a new house.
Garland said she didn't mind that her sister was coming to live with her in Hampton. Her niece didn't want her, she said, and Garland didn't want to see her sister go into a nursing home.
This wasn't the first time the two sisters lived together, she said.
Garland said before Keyho lived with her brother, she stayed at her home for seven years.
"She wanted to come back," said Garland. "She didn't come back sooner because she was worried about our brother."
While Keyho lived rent free she would help around the house, Garland said. Keyho would vacuum twice a week, dust and clean the silver.
"She liked being here," Garland said. "I never asked her to do any of these things. She wanted to do it because she was so grateful that I opened my home to her. When I was outside working in the garden she would watch me through the window."
She said the two did everything together and wherever Garland went, her sister followed.
Garland said in the weeks before her sister's death, Keyho was afraid that her epilepsy was coming back. When Keyho was young she would have terrible seizures that caused her to drop out of school, Garland said.
While the seizures stopped, Keyho thought they were coming back because she was having dizzy spells, Garland said.
But she never complained and didn't want to go see a doctor, Garland said.
Garland said that two weeks before Keyho's death, her sister told her that she loved her.
"She told me that she loved me when I was born and she loves me even more now for everything I did for her," said Garland.
Garland said she was shocked after she was arrested in connection with her sister's death. Not only was she locked up and put behind bars but she was also grieving the loss of her sister.
"It hurts because people are accusing me of doing something they know nothing about," said Garland.
When she was arraigned on the charges, Garland was told that if she made bail she could not contact her brother or anyone in her immediate family.
Garland couldn't make the $25,000 bail and was sent to Hillsborough County jail .
"It really wasn't that bad," said Garland, who was in a cell by herself. "They all treated me good. When they brought me in there a guard said, 'Here comes a lady who doesn't belong here.'"
The one thing she hated about jail was the language that some of the inmates used.She would spend her time reading, playing solitaire and sleeping.
During time out of her cell, she would play Dummy Rummy or Spades with the other inmates. A guard fondly referred to her as "Judy" Garland, she said.
Garland was able to get out of jail after her bail was reduced to $10,000.
When she was released, she was 40 pounds lighter, she said.
"I couldn't eat the food in there," said Garland. "The food to me was nothing but garbage."
On June 4, she returned to her home at 10 Philbrook Terrace, which she said was in a complete mess.
She said investigators had seized pieces of her carpet, personal photographs, and her diamond rings.
One of the first things Garland said she did after she bailed herself out of jail was to get her cat back. Her cat, Misty, had been placed at a animal shelter after she was arrested.
Garland said after she was released it was hard going out in public.
Garland once considered herself to be very involved in the community. She was a member of the First Congregational Church choir for 27 years, volunteered for the Hampton Garden Club and for the Monday club, she said.
But after her husband died in 1987, she withdrew from all that.
Now, Garland said, with all the media attention surrounding her case she only goes out when she has to go grocery shopping or to the bank.
"I can't go out any more," said Garland. "I go to the grocery store and people stare at me. They only know what they read in the newspapers."
She also said she can't sleep because she is worried about what might happen.
The good news, she said, is that her friends have stood by her side.
"They know me and they know I would never do something like this," Garland said. "I love my sister and I miss her terribly."