July 27, 2012

12/05/09: Darrel Dullum, 30, East Helena, MT


Darrel Dullum
Darrel Dullum, 30, of East Helena, Mont. disappeared around 2 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009 after leaving Eagles 4040 Bar in East Helena. (Photos of the area.) Witnesses reported that Dullum appeared to be intoxicated and that he did not get into his vehicle; a bartender had reportedly taken away his keys. He was last seen with two men outside the bar. He then left the bar on foot, intending to walk to his home on the 3200 block of Trerise Road.

Dullum was reported missing at 7 p.m. on Saturday. His 1998 black GMC pickup was located in a parking lot to the south of the Eagles.

Dullum's estranged wife, Brandy Dullum, who he had been separated from for a year-and-a-half, said his disappearance was out of the ordinary. “He runs like clockwork, that’s why this is so weird to me,” she told Alana Listoe of the Helena Independent Record in December 2009.

Dullum is the father of two sons, Darren, 6, and Alex, 5.

Searches were conducted on Saturday and Sunday, and on Monday, a helicopter search was performed near Dullum's home and throughout all of East Helena.

On Friday, December 11, 2009, a baseball cap belonging to Dullum was found near a residence on the 100 block of East Pacific Street. The hat was identified by Dullum's parents.

Nearly two months later, on Saturday, February 6, 2010 Dullum’s body was found encased in ice on a sand bar in Prickly Pear Creek. Dullum's cell phone and wallet containing his identification were found on the body. The creek, which is near Main Street Park off Clark Street, is about two miles south of Dullum's home, two blocks southeast of the Eagles Bar in East Helena, and about 20 feet from where his hat was found. The area had been previously searched using dogs and divers; the dogs had shown an interest in the spot where Dullum was found, but the ice made it very difficult to search.

"But you go and look at that ice and how thick it is, it was unbelievable," East Helena Police Chief Dale Aschim told Eve Byron of the Helena Independent Record. "There were six to eight inches, and on the sides of the creek it was definitely over a foot thick."

Lewis and Clark County Coroner Mickey Nelson confirmed on February 10 that drowning was the cause of Dullum’s death, stating that there was no evidence that anyone else was involved. However, questions remain about why Dullum was near the creek.


According to Byron, "The body was found south of the bar, while Dullum's home was to the north, which puzzles [investigators]. They're not sure if Dullum, a native of East Helena, was disoriented or going someplace other than home. They also aren't sure how he would have landed in the creek, and whether he might have fallen in where he was found or somewhere upstream. The night he went missing was cold - the temperature was about 14 degrees - and it's snowed often since then, which may have covered up his tracks."

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton told the paper, "Nothing points to [foul play] at this time. The only thing we know for sure is from the video showing that he left the bar."(Byron, Helena Independent Record, Feb. 2010.)

In February 2011, Darrel's father, Jerry Dullum, wrote an guest editorial piece for the same paper about the questions that remained in his son's case and expressing his frustration over the lack of security cameras in the area where his son was found. He wrote:
Although the coroner has not found physical evidence of foul play, foul play has not been ruled out. There are still some blood tests to be done for alcohol and drugs. The quantity and quality of the blood may not be good enough to determine anything. The state of decomposition of Darrel’s body leaves some room for doubt. The exact cause or contributing factors of death has not been determined. Was drowning criminal or accidental? There is some miscommunication about this and law enforcement is still looking for evidence and identifying and questioning people.

They have proven it is Darrel; he was not shot, stabbed or beaten, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Anyone with information can still call Helena Area Crime Stoppers anonymously at 443-2000; the East Helena Police or the Lewis and Clark County sheriff’s office. There is still a $1,000 reward through Crime Stoppers.

Oh, how I wish there had been cameras along Main Street, whether they belonged to the city or the county or anybody, to tell the rest of the story. Many people have been questioned, accused, wrongly accused and requestioned. There has been a lot of bar gossip, rumors and just plain lies going around. There is the second- and third-party he-said-she-said. The wrong people have been accused or questioned and the people who saw, heard or know something have not yet been found or come forward.

Countless hours of law enforcement time was wasted because there are no cameras. From everything I know, and evidence suggests, my son was not drunk or disoriented enough to walk the opposite way from home, nor do I believe he purposely jumped into waist-deep water and drowned himself.

It is far more likely he was accosted and running away. Scared? Was he drugged? Why was his hat out of the water? Was he confronted there? Was he held underwater or pushed repeatedly in? Were there other wet people around? Was there a gun pointed at him?

There are more possibilities. Because of a lack of cameras, we may never get an answer. There are three bars in a two-block area and a gas station at each end of town. There were a lot of people out on Main Street and still no one saw anything?

It wouldn’t bother me to see the city put in cameras downtown. I don’t see the cameras as an infringement on my freedom, but as security for the community.

Furthermore, I plan on contacting my legislators about a law requiring bars to put in quality outside cameras at all entrances and exits for the protection of patrons and citizens. It also needs to state that someone know how to operate the system, as this was part of the problem in our case. From reports I’ve seen, 20 to 30 percent of businesses with cameras do not know how to operate them. If there had been cameras we probably would have seen what happened to Darrel or at least we might have found him the same day instead of two months later.

How can anyone feel safe on Main Street in downtown East Helena until more questions are answered?

The toxicology results in this case have not been released.



Footnotes

On July 26, 2012, KXLH.com reported that "Brandy Dullum has been sentenced to 25 years in the Montana Women's Prison, with 15 of those years suspended, for the negligent vehicular death of her friend Devon Richetti in December 2011." The high-speed rollover crash also caused serious injury to 22-year old Leeann Stobart. Dullum was also given a 10-year suspended sentence for a negligent vehicular assault charge that will run concurrent to the first and she must pay restitution to Richetti's family for the costs of the funeral and cremation. Stobart's medical bills have not yet been addressed.

According to the paper, "in a separate rollover accident on I-15 that occurred on April 25, Dullum was sentenced to 10 years suspended, to be served consecutively for the criminal endangerment of the passenger. 

Dullum's attorney Randi Hood argued that Dullum's losses and struggles with alcohol and depression warranted a lighter sentence, telling the judge, "We believe that Elkhorn, which is a 9 month treatment program as well as pre-release, which would be another six months, to be appropriate for her. Judge Kathy Seeley did not accept the recommended sentence, stating, "I'm not going to accept the plea agreement. I think you are a danger to the community. And, I am not satisfied that you appreciate what a danger you are to all of us."


Case Details

Name/age: Darrel Dullum, 30
Residence:  3200 block of Trerise Road, East Helena, Mont.
Last Seen: 12/5/09, Eagles Bar
Physical Description: 6'0" tall, 160 pounds, goatee, pierced left ear
Last Wearing: white baseball cap, gray jeans, black Carhartt jacket and black boots.Recovered:
Recovered: 2/6/10, Prickly Pear Creek
Investigating Agency: Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office at 447-8293, Crime Stoppers at 443-2000 or e-mail finddarrel@live.com.





Sources

Brandt, Angela. (2009, December 11). Searchers find hat that may belong to missing East Helena man. Helena Independent Record. Retrieved July 27, 2012 from http://helenair.com/news/article_93235b60-e685-11de-b757-001cc4c002e0.html.

Listoe, Alana. (2009, December 21). Family ups reward to $5,000 for info on Dullum. Helena Independent Record. Retrieved July 27, 2012 from http://helenair.com/news/local/article_b571140c-edef-11de-986f-001cc4c002e0.html.

Byron, Eve. (2010, February 7). Police 90 percent sure Dullum found in Prickly Pear Creek.
Helena Independent Record. Retrieved July 27, 2012 from
http://helenair.com/news/local/article_f77c539e-1396-11df-8e73-001cc4c002e0.html
 
Listoe, Alana. (2010, February 10). Coroner: No foul play in Dullum death. Helena Independent Record. Retrieved July 27, 2012 from http://helenair.com/news/local/article_6d0be9f6-160a-11df-8fd6-001cc4c002e0.html.

Dullum, Jerry. (2011, February 11). Dullum found, but questions remain. Helena Independent Record. Retrieved July 27, 2012 from http://helenair.com/news/opinion/article_f4d34390-16d0-11df-89cb-001cc4c002e0.html.

Anderson, Melissa. (2012, July 26). Dullum sentenced for deadly December rollover. KXLH.com Retrieved July 27, 2012 from http://www.kxlh.com/news/dullum-sentenced-for-deadly-december-rollover/

In a separate rollover accident on I-15 that occurred on April 25th, Dullum was sentenced to 10 years suspended, to be served consecutively for the criminal endangerment of the passenger.

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