John Helble & Andy Rich [Hair of the Dog] Forensic Files Case Study

Summary of Hair of the Dog Case of John Helble and Andy Rich

DetailsCase Information
Date of Incident23 January 1999
Region and LocationNorth Liberty, Johnson County, Iowa
Forensic Files CaseHair of the Dog (Season 8, Episode 18)
VictimJohn T Helble
SuspectsMike Harding, Andrew Rich, Sharon Schneider. 
CulpritAndy Rich
Type of CrimeMurder, Potential Robbery
Forensic EvidenceNoseprint of Keisha (dog), smudge marks on Jeep’s window, hair (animal), .22 caliber bullets, handwriting on a check, stolen guns
Forensic Techniques UsedMitochondrial DNA testing, Document examination, Elemental ballistics analysis, Nose print comparison
Charged ForFirst-degree robbery and voluntary manslaughter
Punishment35 years in prison

In the small town of NORTH LIBERTY, IOWA, the community was shaken by the mysterious death of 28-year-old John Helble.

He was shot twice on the back of the head with a .22 caliber pistol in his trailer. The advanced state of decomposition indicated that this brutal act wasn’t recent but had transpired weeks before the discovery.

The incident was first reported by John’s mother. In February 1999, John’s mother, Margaret Helble, was really worried when his son hadn’t called her in the last two months. 

We hadn’t heared from my son in over two months. We had been trying to reach my son.

John’s mother called sheriff’s and reported her son missing

So, the police visited John’s house-cum-trailer. And what they saw shocked them.

There were no signs of forced entry. Moreover, the doors were locked from the outside. Both the signs indicated that the culprit knew John and had a key. On a table, a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia were found. 

But notably, John’s prized collection of guns was missing, including a uniquely customized Gold Cup .45 semiautomatic pistol. Another significant absence was John’s 3-year-old husky, Keisha, who was later found wandering miles away, suggesting she might have witnessed the crime.

Attention soon turned to three primary suspects: Mike Harding, Andrew Rich, and Sharon Schneider.

three primary suspects Mike Harding, Andrew Rich, and Sharon Schneider. 

Mike, a friend of John’s, had an alibi and also passed the polygraph test. 

The focus then shifted to Andrew and Sharon, who lived in Greybull, Wyoming. They were known to have visited John around the time of his murder.

In their possession were .22 caliber bullets, the same type used in the murder. Bullets were sent to the FBI lab for extensive testing. However, these bullets didn’t match the ones that killed John.

This makes the initial investigation challenging. No immediate forensic evidence was found, and the case seemed to hit a dead end. 

A significant lead came when smudge marks, possibly from an animal’s nose, were found inside Rich’s Jeep. Meanwhile, investigators couldn’t conclusively match these to Keisha, a Husky dog of John Helble.

All attention to Andy Rich. His background and relationship with John Helble became central to the case. As the event unfolded, it was discovered that Andy had been in possession of an item stolen from John. They had found animal hairs in a box of ammunition that Rich sold. 

These hairs were subjected to mitochondrial DNA testing, revealing a match to Keisha with a rarity of 1 in 300 dogs.

More evidence against Rich was found in Texas. A note detailing custom alterations that he made to the stolen Gold Cup pistol was discovered. Forensic document examiner Gary Licht confirmed that it was written by John Helble.

Evidence mounted! Rich had no choice but to confess. On the eve of his trial, he admitted to killing John Helble for his gun collection. However, there was no remorse in his eyes. He never apologized to John’s family. 

Following his confession, Rich pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and voluntary manslaughter. He was subsequently sentenced to 35 years of prison time.

Second Friend Out Too! Sharon Schneider faced her own set of charges. While she wasn’t a direct witness to the crime but helped investigators in piecing together the events leading to John’s murder. 

Recognizing her support, she was charged with drug possession. Schneider’s sentence was comparatively lenient, with 6 months in a halfway house followed by 2 and 1/2 years of probation.

The whole investigation took 2 yrs but at last, justice was served.

Who was John Helble? And His Early Life

Who was John Helble And His Early Life

John Helble was a 28-year-old young man who lived in a trailer with his dog NORTH LIBERTY, IOWA. He nearly had no social life, except for some friends, and one of them, named Andy Rich, killed him. 

John raised a Husky named Keisha from a puppy. He was very fond of her and always kept her nearby.

  • Profession: His profession remains unknown but his passion was customized gun collection.
  • Lifestyle: Leave alone and have only a bunch of friends.
  • Tragic End: Found murdered, in his trailer with two gunshot wounds at the back of his head.

Who was Andy Rich? And His Punishment?

Who was Andy Rich And His Punishment

Andy Rich was an acquaintance of John Helble and had a criminal history of conviction for theft. He was also known to be a drug abuser and himself involved in drug-related activities.

  • Evidence: Found in possession of items belonging to John and linked to the crime scene through various forensic evidence.
  • Testimony: Faced accusations from individuals like Sharon Schneider, further implicating him in the crime.

Andy Rich’s Guilty Plea:

  • Decision: Confronted with the weight of evidence against him, Andy Rich took the step to plead guilty.
  • Charges: First-degree robbery and voluntary manslaughter.
  • Outcome: The justice system responded with a decisive 35-year prison sentence.

Who was Sharon Schneider and Her Contribution to Case?

Sharon Schneider was acquainted with both John Helble and Andy Rich. She was involved in drug-related activities and later charged with drug possession. Sharon was sentenced to 6 months in a halfway house followed by 2 ½ years of probation.

How Sharon Schneider helps in Crime Scene Reconstruction of Events?

How Sharon Schneider helps in Crime Scene Reconstruction of Events

Sharon was not directly involved in the murder but had knowledge of the events surrounding it.

Her role was indirect, providing critical testimony that helped solve the case. This is how she helped in solving the case of John Helble:

A. Connection to Andy Rich: John had two friends who had driven out to see him from Johnson County, Wyoming. Among them was Andy Rich, who was dropped off to stay with John for a few days. The other friend, a lady, Schneider, drove back home.

B. Crime Details: During his visit, Andy Rich shot and killed John Helble, stole his rare gun collection, and used John’s van to abandon Keisha several miles away. The lady friend, eventually picked up Andy, unaware of the murder.

Read Similar Case: Patrick Walsh & Pamela Sweeney [Flower Power] Forensic Files Case Study

Reasons Why Andy Rich Might Have Killed John Helble?

As the investigation progressed, several motives behind Andy Rich’s involvement in crime came to light. Let’s explore these reasons in detail:

Reason 1: Helble’s Prized Gun Collection

Main Attraction: John Helble had a valuable gun collection, which was known to be of significant worth.

Rich’s Intent: Andy Rich showed interest in this collection. It wasn’t just any collection; it was a symbol of prestige and could fetch a good amount of money.

Reason 2: Financial Motive and Drugs

Rich might have seen an opportunity to make a quick profit by selling Helble’s gun collection.

Drug Connection: The allure of obtaining collectibles could have been a driving factor. Rich’s involvement in narcotics and the potential to trade guns for drugs might have played a role.

Reason 3: Personal Relationships and Disputes

Friendship Turned Sour. John Helble and Andy Rich were known to be close friends. However, personal disputes or disagreements could have escalated, leading to tragic consequences.

Reason 4: No Sharing Required

Avoiding Suspicion! Andy Rich might have believed that by eliminating Helble, he could avoid suspicion and freely profit from the stolen items.

Read More: A Bag of Evidence Forensic Files Case: James Crowe Killer and Jessica Knott Victim

Forensic Evidence Against Andy Rich

Type of EvidenceDescriptionOpine (Result/Technique Used)
Document ExaminationExpert Gary Licht identified handwriting similarities in individual letters such as ‘d’ and ‘J’, and number ‘9’, etc.The handwriting matched the handwriting on the bill of sale for John’s gun.
Animal DNA from HairKeisha’s hair was found in Rich’s possession in a bullet box.Mitochondrial DNA test  shows possibility of matching: 1 in 300 dogs.
Firearms and Bullets.22 caliber bullets, the same type used in John’s murder, were sent to the FBI labNeutron-activation tests were used but not matched with bullets found at crime scenes.
Keisha’s Nose PrintSmudge marks found  inside the windows of Rich’s JeepNo direct match between the smudge marks and Keisha’s nose print.
Stolen GunsAndy Rich was in possession of John’s guns, which were identified as stolen from John’s home.Linking Andy to the crime scene.
Position of the BodyJohn Helble was killed after he fell asleep.Someone was with John that night
Suspected InvolvementAndy Rich was suspected of involvement in John Helble’s murder.Based on various pieces of evidence and witness accounts, Andy Rich was a prime suspect.
TestimonySharon Schneider provided testimony against Andy Rich.Sharon Schneider’s testimony implicated Andy Rich in the crime.

Forensic Experts in the Case of Andy Rich and John Helble 

NameDesignationRole/Work in the Case
Det. Douglas E. VannoySenior InvestigatorPlayed a key role in the initial investigation, gathering evidence, and piecing together the events leading to John Helble’s murder.
Linda PaulsonAsst. District AttorneyResponsible for the legal proceedings, ensuring that the evidence was presented correctly in court, and prosecuting the case against the Andy Rich.
Special Agent Wade KisnerState InvestigatorAssisted in the broader investigation, possibly working on state-level implications or collaborating with local law enforcement.
Joy HalversonAnimal DNA ExpertConducted the mitochondrial DNA tests on animal hairs, providing crucial evidence linking Keisha, the dog, to Andy Rich.
Gary LichtDocument ExaminerIdentified handwriting similarities on the bill of sale for John’s gun, linking it to Andy Rich.

How Keisha, A Husky Dog Help in Solving the Case?

How Keisha, A Husky Dog Help in Solving the Case

1. Keisha’s Agitation:

  • The act of shooting John likely caused distress to Keisha.
  • This potential agitation might have prompted Rich to make impulsive decisions.
  • One such decision could have been transporting Keisha in his vehicle.
  • Evidence supporting this theory includes the discovery of Keisha’s hair in Rich’s vehicle.

2. Smudge Marks of Nose Print:

  • Dogs, like humans, have distinctive prints; in their case, it’s the noseprint.
  • Smudge marks were identified on the inside windows of a suspect’s Jeep.
  • The immediate suspicion: Were these marks left by Keisha?
  • Investigators took Keisha’s nose print, aiming to match it with any prints found related to the crime.
  • However, the result was inconclusive.

3. Mitochondrial DNA from the Hair:

  • The hair found in Rich’s possession underwent PCR-based mitochondrial DNA testing.
  • This type of DNA testing is specialized and can trace maternal lineage.
  • The results indicated that there was a 1 in 300 chance that the hair did not belong to Keisha.
  • Such odds provided compelling evidence of Keisha’s presence and further implicated Rich in the crime.

Read another case where Dog hair is used to solve the case: Beaten by a Hair [Forensic Files] Case Study: Hadden Clark And Laura Houghteling

Forensic Analysis in John Helble and Andy Rich Case of Hair of the Dog

Forensic Analysis in John Helble and Andy Rich Case of hair of the dog

1. Document Examination

Forensic document examination played a important role in the case. Gary Licht, a seasoned expert in the field, was brought in to scrutinize certain documents.

His keen eye identified: Handwriting similarities that connected Andy Rich to certain pieces of evidence. Just as a forged signature can reveal intent, these similarities pointed towards Andy’s deeper involvement in the crime.

notes that are analysed in questioned documents by expert

2. Animal mtDNA Analysis

The world of forensics is vast, and sometimes, the most unconventional evidence can be the most revealing. In this case, Joy Halverson’s expertise in animal DNA became invaluable. She conducted:

Mitochondrial DNA tests on animal hairs. These tests, often used to trace lineage or identify species, provided insights that were crucial in linking Keisha, the Siberian husky, to certain locations and events.

3. Firearms and Ballistics

The nature of John Helble’s death made firearms and ballistics analysis indispensable. The key findings included:

  • Recovery of .22 caliber bullets, identical to those that ended John’s life. These bullets were meticulously analyzed for any unique markings or characteristics.
  • The bullets were dispatched to an FBI lab for in-depth testing.
  • There are two main methods used for bullet test:
    • First method is physical analysis: using lands and grooves on a bullet, and
    • Second is elemental analysis: using Atomic absoption spectrometer to reveal elemental profile.
  • In this case FBI examiners choose to prefer elemental analysis as there is no need to fire bullet to get rifling marks.

4. Noseprints Examination

Smudge marks inside a suspect’s Jeep were meticulously analyzed. These marks, potentially left by Keisha, were compared to her unique nose print, akin to human fingerprints.

The prints from Keisha were dusted with regular fingerprint powders. The process might be evolved like the following:

  1. Using a powder brush and non-magnetic fingerprint powder was spread to the nose of the husky dog.
  2. The direction should be from the tip of the nose to the bottom.
  3. Paper was pressed against the nose tip with fingerprint powder.

However, the result was inconclusive. There may be two reasons for it. First, the prints were smudged which made the ridges diluted. Secondly, Keisha might have some injury to her nose and even growing up makes the ridges get wider.

Read More: Michael Prozumenshikov & Zachary Persitz [Going for Broke] Forensic Files Case Study

My Thoughts on John Helble and Andy Rich Case

The Andy Rich case stands out as a testament to the evolving landscape of forensic science. It’s a case that underscores the importance of looking beyond the conventional, delving into the unconventional, and trusting the expertise of professionals.

The use of animal DNA, particularly from Keisha, John’s Siberian husky, was a game-changer. It’s not every day that a dog’s noseprint becomes a pivotal piece of evidence.

This case serves as a reminder that sometimes, the most unexpected sources can provide the most compelling evidence.

Diving deep into the case, I couldn’t help but ponder the motivations and actions of Andy Rich.

Was it sheer greed, a momentary lapse in judgment, or something more sinister that drove him to commit such a heinous act? As I’ve observed in numerous cases, sometimes the most ordinary-seeming individuals harbor the darkest secrets.

It’s also worth noting the community’s initial reactions and biases. Much like the Bill Bruns case, where a close friend’s unwavering belief in Bill’s innocence clouded judgment, one wonders if similar biases played a role here.

Did people see only what they wanted to see, hear only what they wanted to hear?

What are your thoughts on this? Do you believe the unconventional evidence was important? Or do you think there’s more to the story? I’d love to hear your insights in the comments below.

General FAQs

Who were the main suspects in John’s murder?

The primary suspects were Andy Rich, Mike Harding, and Sharon Schneider. Andy was implicated due to forensic evidence and possession of John’s stolen items. Mike, being John’s friend, was a person of interest. Sharon, associated with Andy, became crucial when she provided testimony against Rich, revealing her knowledge of the crime.

Why was Andy Rich suspected of killing John Helble?

Andy Rich had motives tied to financial gains, possibly intending to sell John’s gun collection for cash or drugs. Forensic evidence, including Keisha’s hair and a stolen check, further implicated him.

What was Sharon Schneider’s role in the case?

Sharon Schneider was an associate of Andy Rich. She provided a testimony that implicated Andy in the crime, revealing details that only someone with direct knowledge could possess.

What forensic techniques were used in Hair of the Dog case?

Several techniques including PCR based mitochondrial DNA testing on animal hairs, document examination to identify handwriting similarities, and ballistics analysis of the .22 caliber bullets used in the murder.

What was Andy Rich’s final verdict?

Andy Rich pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree robbery and voluntary manslaughter. He was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison.


  • Watch Full case Forensic Files – Season 8, Episode 18 – Hair of the Dog [YouTube]
  • John Personal Information [Findagrave]
  • A Practical Guide To The Forensic Examination Of Hair From Crime Scene To Court by By James R. Robertson, Elizabeth Brooks · 2021
  • Handbook of Trace Evidence Analysis by Vincent J. Desiderio, ‎Chris E. Taylor, ‎Niamh Nic Daéid · 2020
  • Hair Analysis in Clinical and Forensic Toxicology By Pascal Kintz, Alberto Salomone, Marco Vincenti [Google Books]

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