The sun was barely visible in the gray January sky as St Clair County sheriff’s officers responded to a call in Riverside, Alabama. Two fishermen had found the partially nude body of a middle-aged dead man approximately 200 yards from I-20 exit 162.

It was a cold January 3, the man was lying face-up in a ditch. He was wearing only blue jockey underwear and Lee blue jeans size 36-30. The jeans fasten loosely with a blue nylon belt with a green stripe.

The sheriffs would later learn that the black, leathery face with empty eyes had once belonged to a gentle man whose fine white hair and white beard had earned him the nickname Santa Claus. But, there in the gathering darkness, they did not know who the man once was or why he had been executed by a single gun shot to the back of his head. But, St. Clair County sheriff’s investigator Billy Murray was determined to find who the victim was, why he died and to bring the killer to justice. A killer the press would come to call, “The Traveler.”

Further inspection showed that the victim was wearing a gold wedding ring on his left hand, an expensive Seiko watch with a black band on the left wrist, gold bracelets on both wrists and a gold chain around his neck. The man’s wallet and identification was not found at the scene. From the extensive decomposition of the body the investigators thought the victim might have been dead for 2 to 3 weeks.

The investigators also noted that the dead man’s watch was set to Eastern Standard Time, which meant he had come from the east into Alabama.

The victim was entered as an unidentified middle age white male into the NCIC (National Crime Information Center database).

On January 4, 2007, an autopsy was performed at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Huntsville, Alabama. The autopsy revealed that the victim’s death was caused by a single gunshot wound from a 32-caliber weapon to the back of the head. It was also discovered the victim was missing a left kidney.

The discovery of the missing kidney enabled the investigators to go back to the NCIC database with this most important new information. The new search registered a hit on a Missing Persons Report filed on Barry Alan Helling of Snellville, Georgia.

Mr. Helling was reported missing to the Gwinnett County Police Department in Georgia on December 9, 2006, by his long-time companion Larry Little.

Little said he had last seen the victim leaving their residence in Snellville, Georgia, the morning of December 9, 2006. Little told investigators that Helling had left home that morning saying that he was “going training” which meant he was going to train intersections to observe trains passing. According to Little, watching trains was Helling’s hobby and passion. Little said he became alarmed when Helling failed to answer repeated calls to his cell phone.

Upon obtaining a subpoena for the victim’s cell phone records it was discovered that Helling had received a call on or around 10:30 a.m. the day he went missing. The call was placed from a payphone inside a Walmart in Suwannee, Georgia. Surveillance tape from the store shows a man who would later become a suspect around the area of the pay phones at the approximate time Helling received the call.

The suspect was a white male, 45-65 years of age, Height: 5’7” to 5’10”, Weight: 200 lbs to 230 lbs.

After obtaining subpoenas for Helling’s credit card records the investigators discovered that numerous credit card transactions began on the day Helling disappeared and continued until February 2, 2007 after Helling body had been identified and released to the press. During that time, approximately eighty-five credit card transactions were made on the victim’s accounts. The credit card transactions totaled in access of $17,000. On numerous occasions’ surveillance videos show the same suspect but in various forms of disguise including hats, beard and sunglasses. The Traveler was using Helling’s credit cards and soon would be taking on Mr. Helling’s very appearance.

The majority of credit card transactions occurred around the metro Atlanta area and Port Richey Florida.

“If we could find out how and when Mr. Helling and his murderer met that might be the key we need to capture his killer,” said Captain Billy Murray of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office.

In part two, we will look at Mr. Helling’s home life, his Internet use and the activities of the killer known as The Traveler.

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