HOLLIDAYSBURG - The state Superior Court three weeks ago overturned Blair County Judge Elizabeth Doyle's life sentence of a serial child rapist, so the judge on Thursday resentenced the defendant to 75 to 150 years behind bars.
Douglas Keating, the attorney for David A. Helsel, 32, of Altoona, said the sentence was "a reimposition of the life sentence the Superior Court said [Doyle] couldn't impose."
What she did was sentence Helsel on each of the guilty counts returned by the jury during Helsel's 2011 trial and, for the most part, imposed consecutive sentences.
Doyle sentenced Helsel to consecutive 25- to 50-year terms for attempted child rape and attempted child rape by forcible compulsion. She added more time for unlawful restraint, simple assault, terroristic threats, recklessly endangering a child, corruption of minors and other less serious offenses.
"He is a predator," said Doyle as she explained why she levied such a long sentence on a relatively young man.
Helsel raped two other children in the 1990s, she said.
She called his offenses against two girls, ages 12 and 14, in 2009 "heinous," stating they had "a grave impact on the victims and their families."
She said that Helsel must be "incapacitated" from further injuring children.
For the first time, Helsel admitted he may have committed some wrong acts when, on June 16, 2009, he came upon a group of five young people standing near the Oak Ridge Cemetery along 10th Street in Altoona.
He ended up punching one of the young boys in the group and then forcibly taking the two young girls by their wrists, telling them they had to go with him because they had allegedly damaged items in the cemetery.
Helsel took the girls to the Prospect Park ballfield, where it was charged he threatened the girls with a knife and was in the process of raping the younger child when police arrived.
He fled into a wooded area but was later found by police. He denied committing the sexual offenses and other crimes but a jury found him guilty of 16 offenses.
Assistant District Attorney Dan Kiss asked Doyle to impose life on Helsel as a three-strike child sexual offender and she did. But the Superior Court ruled that for sentencing purposes, Helsel only had two such convictions.
Helsel apologized for what happened but contended he didn't do everything for which he was charged. He said he is trying to better himself, taking a mental health course and learning a trade skill while in prison.
Keating asked Helsel only receive 25 years behind bars, noting that he would be 57 years old when he gets out.
Kiss said he talked to other district attorneys and with the DA's state organization before deciding not to appeal the Superior Court order to the Supreme Court. He said the feeling was that the Supreme Court would probably uphold the ruling.
Doyle said she respectfully disagreed with the Superior Court ruling that the first two child rapes constituted only a first offense on Helsel's record.
She told Helsel he was a danger to the community and to children.
Helsel had a rough childhood and was a victim of child sexual abuse, Keating said.
"That's not an excuse, but sometimes we wonder why a person commits these crimes. You have to look at a person's background," Keating said.
Keating said he will appeal Helsel's conviction and new sentence.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.