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Archive for Saturday, February 16, 2008

Police identify body that was buried in Wichita basement

February 16, 2008

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— Rumors had swirled around a neighborhood that a body might be buried in a house on North Market in Wichita.

But in the high-crime neighborhood in north Wichita filled with homes subdivided into apartments, residents kept to themselves and didn't investigate.

In mid-January, someone called Crime Stoppers and said a woman had died of a drug overdose and been buried in the basement of a home on North Market. But the caller did not give information specific enough for police to investigate, said Wichita police Capt. Randy Landen.

On Tuesday, police responding to a report of a foul odor coming from the basement of a home found the body of Jennie L. Heltsley, 42, who had been missing since December.

The cause of her death has not been determined, but Landen said the case was being worked as a homicide.

A 26-year-old man who lived in the back half of the house late last year has been arrested on suspicion of murder. The man moved out of the apartment shortly after Heltsley disappeared, Landen said.

Police said Heltsley and the suspect knew each other through past drug deals. Heltsley had served time in Kansas jails and prisons in the last decade for several property crimes, according to court records.

Police records show that between Dec. 1 and Feb. 13, there were 34 calls to 911 along North Market between 13th and 17th Streets, said Diane Gage, director of Sedgwick County emergency communications.

Police went to the home where Heltsley's body was found on Jan. 25 after receiving a call asking them to check on the welfare of the man living there. But the caller apparently didn't realize the man, who is now a murder suspect, was in Sedgwick County Jail on unrelated charges at the time.

Misty Applegate, who has lived on North Market for 12 years, said she heard the rumors about the body but chose to ignore them.

"I stayed on my side of the street and didn't pay too much attention to anybody" elsewhere on the block, she said.

Michael Birzer, director of the School of Community Affairs at Wichita State University, said residents usually mind their own business in neighborhoods dominated by rental properties.

"Folks just don't care" what's going on around them, he said. "They may be there for six months or seven or a year, and then they're gone."

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