Investigation Discovery’s ‘Fatal Vows: Murder in the Cards’ follows the gruesome murder of 45-year-old Helen Tomassoni in Blaine, Minnesota, in July 2007. The investigators could catch the perpetrator within hours of the crime due to the various physical evidence scattered throughout the house. If you’re interested and want to learn more about the case, including the killer’s identity and current whereabouts, we’ve your back. Let’s begin then, shall we?
How Did Helen Tomassoni Die?
Helen Rose Tinsley Tomassoni was born to William and Spedita Tinsley on December 25, 1961, in St. Louis County, Minnesota. She married her husband, Gary Howard Tomassoni, in June 1983 and had two sons – Jack and Ryan Tomassoni. According to the episode, the couple resided in Blaine in Anoka County, Minnesota, in July 2007, along with their younger son, Ryan.
The neighbors testified they had never seen Helen and Gary fight, and there was no history of violence or conflict between them. The Tomassonis were the perfect married couple to the outside world – happy and contented. However, that image was shattered when Blaine police arrived at their residence on July 21, 2007, to find 45-year-old Helen lying naked, facedown on her bed with a gunshot wound to the back of her head.
Ryan had called 911 when his father informed him that an intruder had barged into their home, and the responding officers found the body. According to the autopsy report, Helen had suffered two bullet wounds to the head — one grazed her head, and the other entered the base of her skull. The second shot was the fatal one since it had entered her brain.
Who Killed Helen Tomassoni?
As per official court documents, July 20 was a regular day at the Tomassoni household, with Ryan, then 14, cycling with his father, Gary, in the afternoon. The latter went on another bike ride with his wife, Helen, in the evening, and the couple returned after dark. Ryan testified his mother immediately went to bed when he was in his bedroom watching television. Although, he went to bed a little after midnight when his father ordered him to turn off the TV and sleep.
Ryan told the detectives that a loud noise woke him up around 5:03 AM on July 21, and he went from the lower level of his split-level family home to the upper story to use the bathroom. As he came out, the teenager came face to face with his distressed father, who asked him to call 911 immediately. When Ryan dialed the emergency number, Gary told the dispatcher that an intruder might have shot his wife dead and escaped through an open downstairs window.
A visibly upset Gary told the investigators he was sleeping on the couch in the living room when a loud noise, similar to a firecracker or a gunshot, woke him up. He alleged he heard Helen shout, ” What was that?” and rushed to the bedroom to find her lying face down while holding the back of her head. Yet, the investigators were skeptical about his version of events as he seemed fidgety and sweating and had a cut on his right index finger.
As the police interviewed the victim’s grieving family, the officers initially swept the house to look for the intruder. They noticed blood stains in several locations around the residence. Court records state that the detectives discovered blood on the bed and the bedroom floor, the sink and bath mat, and the telephone and trash can in the kitchen. Furthermore, they found stains on the stair railings leading to the lower level and a downstairs light switch.
Besides, the investigators noticed a window in the lower level was partially open. The removed screen was bent and broken inside the room, yet they could not find any footprints outside. After obtaining the search warrant, the officers conducted a more comprehensive search of the house and retrieved a bullet from the headboard near the body. They also located a cartridge casing on the bedroom floor and small pieces of blue rubbery material in different parts of the residence.
The investigators searched the basement to find a locked file cabinet, inside which was a folder containing life insurance policies worth $500,000 in Helen’s name, with Gary Tomassoni as beneficiary. Moreover, there was a drop of blood on the folder. By the cabinet was a small fire safe, and the officers opened it to find a .32 caliber handgun, a pair of blue rubber gloves that had been torn in places, and a second spent bullet casing. In addition, they found an unwashed and blood-stained black coat, shirt, and shorts in the washing machine.
When checking the clothing, the detectives found a set of keys in the shorts’ pocket, including one for the filing cabinet where the gun had been kept. Not just that, they found a box of blue rubber gloves and a partial roll of duct tape inside the garage. When presented with all the evidence, Gary reportedly got more nervous and sweaty, trying to stick to his “intruder story.” He was arrested and charged with Helen’s first-degree, premeditated murder.
According to police records, Gary had various health issues because of diabetes, two kidney transplants, and a pancreas transplant. Due to poor health, he had no job, and his gambling addiction mounted huge debts of around $850,000 that he could not pay. Since some of his debts were due on July 21, he allegedly decided to kill his wife that day for insurance money.
Where is Gary Tomassoni Now?
While in jail, Gary spoke with his sister and an Anoka County child protection worker regarding settling his financial debts, the welfare of his children, and taking care of other personal affairs. As per court records, he even confessed to the child protection worker he had shot his wife. Nevertheless, this confession could not be used in his trial since it violated his Fifth Amendment rights. Still, the prosecution had enough forensic evidence to prove him to be the killer.
Gary’s defense counsel claimed the murder was not premeditated and Gary had wanted to kill himself, citing an earlier suicide attempt. Nevertheless, the court refused to believe his story and convicted him of first-degree, premeditated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in August 2008. Official court records indicate that Gary, now in his early 60s, is serving his sentence at Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights.
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