Family left with questions, no answers; Victim was treated `like she was trash'.
WORCESTER - A gruesome scene was uncovered as the snow began to melt during a spring rainstorm in March 1994.
Wrapped in a blanket and covered with a trash bag was the lifeless body of Helen R. Chevalier, a 27-year-old mother who struggled with drug addiction and took to the streets to feed her vice.
It wasn't until 2010 that investigators received more information about her death and had officials from the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner review the case again.
Ms. Chevalier's death certificate on file in the city now lists the immediate cause of death as strangulation. The certificate notes she was found with injuries to her neck and she had acute cocaine intoxication.
The manner of death reads homicide.
The change in the case to a killing didn't come as a surprise to Ms. Chevalier's children. They know how she was discovered. They know she struggled with drug addiction and turned to prostitution.
Ms. Chevalier's daughter, Sheena M. Chevalier, recalled the chilly details of how her mother was wrapped.
"She was in a trash bag with a fitted sheet around her lower half, a blanket around her upper half and trash bag tied with electrical tape and shoe strings," Sheena, now 28, said. "That's what they even made it seem like - like she was trash. They just put her in a trash bag, tied it up threw it away."
No one has been charged with the killing. Her children are left wondering who is responsible. Daughters Sheena Chevalier and Niki L. Chevalier, both from Leicester, and son Michael A. Chevalier of Worcester, were all young at the time of the killing.
Their mother had a history of arrests for prostitution and drug possession as they grew up. Ms. Chevalier's children ended up in state custody and in the care of their father's mother.
Michael Chevalier spent much time in state programs. He was 9 at the time of his mother's killing. He wasn't told how she died until he was 21.
For some people, the loss of a mother on a child is a haunting thought. But Ms. Chevalier's children don't believe her killer gave one thought about her family.
"Who could sit there and do something like that to somebody? Not knowing if they have kids or not, but she's somebody's daughter, she's somebody's sister, she's somebody. She's just not some stranger," Sheena Chevalier said. "She was somebody to a lot of people."
The tough lifestyle for Ms. Chevalier must have contributed to her death, her children believe. But the children never saw that side of their mother's life. Even though the children weren't in her custody, Ms. Chevalier worked hard to be there.
"She was awesome," Sheena Chevalier said. "She would come bring us to dance school, she'd pick us up from school. She was there like all the time even though we weren't with her."
Ms. Chevalier was last seen by her family on Feb. 21, 1994. Her body was found March 12, 1994, by a young neighbor who discovered her behind 34 Beacon St.
Michael Chevalier, now 27, went from a mellow child to an angry one. He admits that some of his issues were caused by himself. He spent time in jail. When his mother died, there was a significant change in his demeanor.
"All I knew is that my mother's there and then she's gone. For me that was kind of hard," he said, with a distant look in his eyes. "For a boy, your mother's your world. After that I kind of lost it. I just went from a happy-go-lucky kid to a little hellion."
"I think he took the brunt of it," Niki Chevalier said.
At the time of Ms. Chevalier's death, there was talk about it being a possible drug overdose. Her mother, also named Helen Chevalier, was concerned her daughter would be forgotten by investigators because of her prostitution.
Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said every victim is a viable human being and investigators have a duty to the victim and the public to get the perpetrators off the streets.
"We don't prioritize victims based on who our victims are," Mr. Early said. He pointed to the conviction against Alex F. Scesny, who is serving life in prison for the murder of a prostitute from the Fitchburg area in 1996.
Mr. Early said these women, no matter what their lifestyles, have family that miss them and want answers.
New information came to investigators, and that led to members of Worcester Police's Unresolved Homicide Unit to ask for the death to be reviewed. Mr. Early said while time is an enemy in some cases, it can also help in others. People might be more willing to come forward as time passes, he said.
"We feel better about the information we received in 2010, but there is more work that has to be done on the investigation to continue to move this forward," Mr. Early said. "It is still very active. We need more information. The dots are lining up a little bit."
The family expresses frustration with the case. They thought when the case was classified a homicide in 2010 things were going to progress faster.
"You get that hope built up of something's happening and then you're kind of just stuck," Niki Chevalier said.
All of Ms. Chevalier's children have their own children now, some of them around the same age as they were when she was killed. Ms. Chevalier is buried in Hope Cemetery.
"I have to drive by the cemetery every day to work. I deal with it on a daily basis," Niki Chevalier, 30, said. "Every once in a while you'll get that thought in your head like, `Am I going to get a phone call today?' or if the phone rings and I don't know the number, it's like, who's that?"
Niki Chevalier's also wonders what her children would do without her.
Sheena Chevalier has kept the newspaper clippings about her mother's death. She watches crime shows. She keeps an eye on the newspaper and news about unsolved cases.
"I think about it every day, every day. There is not a day that goes by," Sheena Chevalier said. "Whether they did it or not, somebody put her there."
Anyone with information on this case may send an anonymous text to 274637 beginning with TIPWPD, or call the Worcester Police Department Detective Bureau at (508) 799-8651. Missing person and unresolved homicide cases in Worcester can be viewed at www.worcesterma.govolice/investigative/unresolved-incidents.
Contact Scott J. Croteau at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ScottCroteauTG
CUTLINE: (1) Children of the late Helen Rose Chevalier, are from left, Niki Chevalier of Leicester; Sheena Chevalier of Leicester; and Michael Chevalier of Worcester. (2) Helen R. Chevalier
PHOTOG: (1) T&G Staff/TOM RETTIG
NOTE: 1994 INCIDENT