Douglas Man Accused Of Killing Cousin Says He Blacked Out, Pleads Mental Illness

A Douglas man claims he wasn't sane enough to comprehend his conduct as wrong or conform it to law enforcement when he allegedly shot and killed his cousin in September. 

Clair McFarland

November 27, 20233 min read

Mark Helms
Mark Helms (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A Douglas man accused of killing his cousin is claiming he was not mentally fit to understand the wrongfulness of his alleged actions.  

Mark Coleman Helms, 43, faces a first-degree murder charge in Converse County District Court in the death of his cousin, 38-year-old Nicholas Michael Velazquez.  

Helms pleaded not guilty at his Nov. 13 arraignment, and he also pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness.  

Defendants in Wyoming can invoke both a not-guilty plea and a mental-illness plea simultaneously.  

In response, District Court Judge F. Scott Peasley filed an order last week, telling the Wyoming State Hospital to evaluate Helms on an in-patient basis.  

The judge told the State Hospital to have its evaluators issue opinions on whether Helms has a mental illness or deficiency, and whether Helms had a mental illness or deficiency during the Sept. 14 shooting death of his cousin that would have deprived him of the substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the law.  

People who fit in parameters can be found not guilty of criminal actions.  

Within five days of the State Hospital’s report, the case prosecutor, Converse County Chief Deputy Attorney Shawn Wilde, can seek a second opinion by choosing another evaluator to test Helms’ mental condition, the order says.  

If Helms’ claims of mental deficiency aren’t supported by the evaluations, he still may advance to trial on his not-guilty plea.  

Man Down 

Converse County Sheriff’s Lt. Benjamin Peech arrested Helms on Sept. 14, after the lieutenant found Velazquez dead the hallway floor of Helms’ home in Douglas with a single gunshot wound in his chest, according to an evidentiary affidavit filed in the case.  

Helms had invited Velazquez to the home the night before. Velazquez brought whiskey and beer, says the affidavit.  

The two men drank together and talked that night while Helms’ wife reportedly stayed in her room, says the document. 

Helms later said his memory blacked out. After the memory lapse, he found himself performing CPR on Velazquez, he told law enforcement.  

He did remember his wife yelling something about “Nick,” says the affidavit.  

“Mark (Helms) made additional contradictory statements to me about his memory of the events, including admissions that he had in fact fired the gun but had been scared and unaware of who he was shooting at when he fired the gun,” Peech wrote in the affidavit.  

Helms’ wife also spoke with Peech. She said she was in bed when Helms came running into the room saying something about killing someone.  

He then ran around the bed and grabbed his rifle, the document relates. 

Helms’ case is ongoing.

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter