A Staten Island mom is suing her son’s killer, determined to keep him from cashing in on a legal payout he won behind bars.
Reginald Bell fatally stabbed Michael Helferty during an argument in Port Richmond 14 years ago, and now Helferty’s mom, Antoinette Antonucci, has filed a lawsuit in Staten Island Supreme Court against Bell for $11,858.53 — the proceeds of a legal settlement Bell won for a jailhouse injury.
Bell got a $20,000 payout from the city after a March 2011 incident at Rikers Island, in which he slipped and fell, lost consciousness and suffered neck and back injuries while moving a 70-pound wooden ramp, according to public records. The $11,858.53 was what remained after legal fees, and was frozen by the state under the Son of Sam law, according to court records.
“It really devastated my family. We’ve all suffered a lot,” said Antonucci’s daughter, Deanna Helferty. “Nothing’s going to compensate for what happened.
“It’s just a matter of, we don’t want him to have it. He really doesn’t deserve it,” Helferty, 34, said of Bell, 59, who is serving a 20-year manslaughter sentence in Fishkill Correctional Facility for the November 2008 killing.
Helferty had gone to Bell’s home to help escort home a friend’s mom, Deanna said, when he and Bell began arguing. Bell, who five months earlier had been hailed a hero for helping an elderly man being attacked by dogs in a backyard, claimed the victim lunged at him first, according to a report.
“My brother was 20 when he was killed and he had his whole life ahead of him,” Helferty said, recalling her younger sibling as “really funny. He was kind. I just loved him. He was my best friend.”
Time has not healed the family’s wounds.
“It feels the same as the day it happened. It never got any better,” Helferty said.
The family found out they were facing a deadline to recoup the funds Bell won after the state’s Office of Victim Services sent a letter.
“When we were informed the deadline was coming up, and the money was going to go back to him, we just felt he doesn’t deserve to have that,” Helferty said.
She wished the process for victims to keep profits out of the hands of criminals was easier.
“It should be simpler. We’re already going through so much devastation and heartbreak. And we’re going through the courts, it’s not free, it puts a huge stress on the family,” she said.
Bell could not be reached for comment.