Portage to the Past column: Three boys sentenced for robbery, beating

2:03 PM, Jan. 9, 2013  |  Comments
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Author's note: Part 1 of 2

In November 1912, three school chums, Morris Gullikson, Myron O'Connor and Earl Helm, decided it was a good idea to rob George Wyatt at his home on Normal Avenue in Stevens Point.

Helm first got the idea to do this from "Pug" Moen, who told him Wyatt had a lot of money stashed at home. Helm wasted no time in convincing his two friends to help out. It turns out this was not Helm's first robbery.

On Friday, Nov. 22, the three carried out their plan. Entering the Wyatt home during the night to lay in wait, armed with revolvers, two of the boys proceeded to beat and seriously wound the homeowner when he came home. The third had been a lookout on the street, whistling to the other two when Wyatt was coming home. Helm was wearing a stocking cap with holes cut of the eyes, and he yelled "I'll murder you," before he started to beat Wyatt. When Wyatt started to scream for help, the two ran off.

The boys were arrested by Chief of Police John Hafsoos the day after the incident, and all confessed to District Attorney George Nelson at that time.

When the boys appeared for their hearing, Gullikson was represented by V. P. Owen, but the other two boys lacked representation.

All three boys had their rights explained to them by the judge, and each was asked to plead to the charges, at which time all three pleaded guilty and were placed under $200 bonds. While all three were set for trial in March, which was the next circuit court term, all three were advised they could go before the court and receive sentencing before the March term, and they all chose to do so.

The Stevens Point Daily Journal reported Judge Park's Dec. 6 sentencing drew a large crowd, including fellow students and teachers from the school the three boys attended.

Gullikson, 15, was sent to the Industrial School for Boys at Waukesha until he turned 21, which was the maximum sentence he could be given under the law, being a minor.

O'Connor, who just turned 16, was sentenced to the Green Bay Reformatory for a term of five years.

Helm, 16, the instigator, received the harshest sentence, the state prison at Waupun for a term of 10 years, mostly due to a 1908 arrest for burglary. He was told then if ever brought into court again, he faced a harsh sentence. The judge stated at sentencing that while he could have given Helm 15 years in Waupun, he would shorten it to 10 and hoped Helm would come out a changed man.

It seems the boys were contrite. At the request of Helm, a reporter from the Stevens Point Journal was called to the jail on the day of sentencing and allowed admission to Helm's second-floor cell. Showing none of the bravado he had previously, he asked that the reporter print that he was sorry for what he did and that the confinement would make a good man of him. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he said he hoped people would not blame his parents for his behavior.

After leaving Helm's cell, the reporter visited O'Connor and Gullikson who, when hearing of Helm's statement, said they wished to make the same public statement.

With that, the boys went off to serve their time. Luckily for them, none would have to serve their full sentence. For two, this seemed to be the end of trouble with the law, but for one boy, it was just part of a long string of crimes.

Rhonda Whetstone is a columnist for Stevens Point Journal Media, Daily Tribune Media and News-Herald Media. Rhonda's Twitter ID is TribRendezvous if you wish to follow her musings there. You also can get previews of upcoming columns by clicking "like" on Portage to the Past on Facebook. If you have story ideas of a historical nature, email her at Rhonda.Whetstone@gmail.com.

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