On the eve of his killing, Charles Godwin attended Wednesday night church services in the Marshville area, then lingered to chat in the parking lot with other parishioners.
He was found dead the next day, Aug. 30, 2012, slain after midnight by a 12-gauge shotgun blast to the back through a window in his house. From the start, his family suspected one man – Eddie “Clyde” Helms, said Donnice Whitley, the mother-in-law of Godwin’s daughter.
Godwin, who was separated from his wife, was being a “good Samaritan” when he suggested that a female friend at Hamilton Cross Roads Baptist Church go with him to the church’s group counseling sessions, Whitley said. “He would help anyone,” she said.
The friend had recently broken up with Helms, a Marshville-area man. She claimed in court papers he was stalking her, including unwanted visits to her home – and her church.
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On Tuesday, Union County authorities charged Helms, 61, with Godwin’s murder, with stalking Godwin and a female acquaintance, and with the November 1988 killing of John Terow Griffin III, 38, in nearby Peachland in Anson County.
In that quarter-century-old crime, the victim also was killed with a shotgun blast to the back.
Anger and jealousy played a key role in both cases, authorities said, but they declined to discuss motive or what led them from the Godwin case to Griffin’s.
“My grandson had prayed every day for two years for this day,” Whitley said of the arrest. “My grandchildren were terrified (the killer) would come after them and their mom.”
Claims of stalking
Godwin, 60, was an active church member who would pitch in any way he could, and enjoyed talking to everyone from kids to seniors, said Pastor Jeff Smith, a friend of Godwin’s. “He wasn’t just a pew sitter.”
Those activities included working in a faith-based counseling program called “Celebrate Recovery” that numerous churches use to assist people dealing with problems.
Godwin was simply trying to help out his friend with the counseling program, Whitley said. There was no romantic involvement between the two, she and Smith said.
The alleged stalking began soon after the woman from the church ended a 7 1/2-year relationship with Helms in June 2012, she claimed in seeking a protection order when Helms wouldn’t leave her alone.
The woman kept a journal that listed about a couple dozen instances of unwanted attention in less than two months, court records show. This included showing up at her house unannounced several times, banging on the front and back doors one time until she woke up.
He repeatedly called and texted her, left her an “I love you” card at her house, and even asked whether a neighbor’s home was for sale, records show.
And four times in August 2012, he showed up at church. The pastor said he was unaware of any problems with Helms.
During an Aug. 19 ice cream social, Helms drove by the church in two different vehicles, the woman stated in her journal. “Everybody there saw him and started asking what was wrong with him,” she wrote.
On Aug. 28, her last entry, she said she spotted Helms watching her drive to work.
The protective order was granted Aug. 31.
Helms also was ordered to surrender his weapons, a total of 28 guns as well as ammunition, court records show. Authorities returned his guns after the woman voluntarily filed to dismiss the charges in December 2012.
The woman could not be reached for comment.
According to Helms’ arrest warrant, the stalking lasted from mid-July to Aug. 30, 2012 – the day Godwin’s body was discovered.
In the Anson County case, Helms had been divorced for about a year when Griffin was killed on Nov. 10, 1988, while fixing an antenna on his roof.
Griffin’s family also said they had suspected Helms for years.
Griffin, according to his sister, had said his estranged wife was having an affair with Helms. But in 1993, that woman filed criminal complaints against Helms for assault and communicating threats, which ultimately were dismissed.
A different woman filed a communicating threat complaint against Helms in 1998 that later also was dismissed.
And after his 2012 breakup, Helms dated another woman. After they split up, she also filed and received a temporary protection order in December 2013. She claimed he drove by her home, went to her work and texted her 108 times in a two-to-four-week period.
In a letter to Helms, she told him, “Women are God’s daughters and you treat them horribly. You have much to atone for, but that’s between you and God. Just stay away from me!!”
The day after Helms’ arrest, Smith led the regular Wednesday night service, just as he did two summers ago with Godwin in attendance.
Smith said his friend would have listened to other people’s troubles in prayer requests before the service started.
This time, Smith offered a prayer for Godwin’s family – and for Helms’. Smith said he knew Godwin died at peace having given his heart to Christ.
When Smith finally prepared to go home, he saw some people chatting in the parking lot, evoking memories of the last time he saw Godwin.
“I could look over and almost see him standing there,” Smith said. “It’s hard to put into words how much he meant.”
Observer researcher Maria David and reporter Cleve R. Wootson Jr. contributed.