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DNA Obtained from Murder Suspect

Further details about a Chantilly woman's murder — and her connection to her suspected killer — were revealed last week in a court document filed by a Fairfax County police detective.

The woman, Patricia Bentley, 38, was found dead last spring in her Brookfield townhouse in the 13800 block of Beaujolais Court. The case was under investigation for several months, culminating in the Sept. 18 arrest of Charles Wesley Helem, 32, of 8100 Pointer Lane, Manassas.

A relative and a friend had both spoken with Bentley, a single mother, the night of April 5, but became worried the next morning when they were unable to reach her. Her two sons, ages 8 and 15, had spent the night with their grandmother, and one of them found their mother's body in an upstairs bedroom upon returning home, the morning of April 6.

Stunned neighbors described Bentley — a school-bus driver for Loudoun County schools — as a quiet person who kept to herself, was a good mother and had an immaculate home. "Everybody was surprised," said neighbor Deborah Littlecook. "Nobody would have thought something like that would have happened to her."

In a Sept. 26 affidavit for a search warrant to obtain DNA evidence from Helem's person, Det. John Wallace described what police learned when they responded, April 6, to Bentley's home. Wrote Wallace: "She was obviously murdered, and strangulation was the cause of death, according to the Virginia State medical examiner."

During the autopsy, physical evidence was collected from Bentley. It was examined by forensic scientist Kelly Ledbetter and was discovered to contain a foreign sample of DNA. "The DNA profile was searched against the Virginia DNA data bank and [it proved] consistent with the DNA profile of Charles Helem," wrote Wallace.

However, to complete the direct DNA comparison, police had to submit to a laboratory two swabs of material taken from Helem's saliva and from the lining of his cheek. And that's why the detective wrote the affidavit requesting permission to do this procedure. Wrote Wallace: "[I] believe there is sufficient evidence that Charles W. Helem is involved in the crime of murder."

He also offered a few details about Helem, a truck driver. He said his investigation revealed that the Manassas man was Bentley's ex-boyfriend. "When Helem was interviewed, he said he [hadn't] had any contact with Bentley for at least three weeks [before her death]," wrote Wallace. "Furthermore, Helem said he [didn't have] sexual intercourse with Bentley for five or six weeks."

Police arrested Helem on Sept. 18, charging him with murder, and Wallace's search warrant was executed, Sept. 26. Helem is being held without bond in the Adult Detention Center; he's scheduled for a jury trial, Jan. 13, in Circuit Court.