Joann Helfrich
Joann Helfrich

There's no doubt Joann Helfrich gunned down boyfriend Fred A. McClure inside their York City apartment more than two years ago.

At issue is whether she intended to kill him or whether -- as Helfrich repeatedly told police -- she thought he was an intruder.

The shooting happened inside the couple's 404 Piedmont Circle home shortly before 4 p.m. Oct. 12, 2010.

Trial began Monday afternoon for Helfrich, 51, who is charged with first-degree murder. She's been held in York County Prison since the homicide.

Chief deputy prosecutor Jennifer Russell told jurors during her opening statement that McClure, 59, was a father and grandfather.

Eight wounds: Helfrich shot him eight times, including in the back, the chest and across the cheek.

"These wounds were fatal within seconds," Russell said.

Helfrich told authorities she'd been in their apartment sleeping all day and awoke to noise. She said it was too dark inside to see who was inside, and that all she could see of the "intruder" was his pants leg, the prosecutor told jurors.

Helfrich told authorities she was upstairs when she fired at the man, who was downstairs.

"(Her) version of events is not just unreasonable, it just flat-out is not true," Russell said.

According to Russell, friends and neighbors of the couple told police they saw the couple together that day, meaning she wasn't asleep, and that about an hour before the homicide Helfrich was using her cell phone.

Also, the prosecutor said, an autopsy on McClure showed the bullets who struck him had different trajectories, so Helfrich's accounting of the shooting makes "absolutely zero sense."

In love? But defense attorney Matthew Monaghan said what doesn't make sense is why his client would want to kill her boyfriend of two years.

"They were in love," he said during his opening statement.

Monaghan told jurors Helfrich stayed with McClure and called 911, telling a dispatcher she thought McClure was an intruder.

Helfrich told the same thing to police officers and detectives, and still maintains that position.

"There was no premeditation," Monaghan said. "This was not willful."

Instead, she fired at "an intruder who made her fear for her life," he said.

"She didn't realize (it was her boyfriend) until after it was too late," Monaghan said.

'Visibly upset': Testimony began with York City Police Officer William Wentz. He and Officer Zachary Pelton were the first officers on the scene.

He said Helfrich was crying and "visibly upset."

Wentz testified there was plenty of natural light inside the apartment to see both the victim and Helfrich's pistol, which was lying on a chair on the first floor, he said.

'Guns can kill you': He said he secured the pistol, then went to help McClure, who was lying facedown and bleeding from two wounds to his back. Wentz said McClure wasn't breathing, and another officer was unable to find the man's pulse.

During cross-examination, Monaghan asked Wentz why the officer picked up the gun but not two shell casings he saw at the scene.

"Guns can kill you," Wentz replied. "Shell casings can't."

Testimony is expected to resume Wednesday morning, as the county Judicial Center is closed Tuesday for Election Day.

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.