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Bail bondsmen say violent confrontations like 1 in which 3 men were shot in Kosciusko Co. rare

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KENDALLVILLE, Indiana — Incidents in which a confrontation with a bail jumper ends in violence are an extreme rarity, area bail bondsmen say.

Monday, three people were shot — one fatally — when three state-licensed recovery agents attempted to arrest a wanted man at a residence near Cromwell in rural Kosciusko County.

Gary Helman, 56, who had been wanted on a warrant, was found dead in a residence in Cromwell by Kosciusko County police at 7 p.m. Monday. His twin brother, Larry Helman, was found injured in another room from a gunshot wound.

Bounty hunter Tadd Martin of Osceola also was discovered in the home with a gunshot wound.

Police indicated shots were exchanged outside as well as inside the residence.

Shows such as "Dog the Bounty Hunter," a popular reality TV series, have given some people the misconception that a bail bondsman's life is all about hunting down dangerous criminals, taking them into custody using physical force.

For the most part, it's simply not true, according to area bail bondsmen. Even the label "bounty hunter" is not valid in Indiana. Bail bondsmen are licensed through the state by that title, or as recovery agents. Martin was acting as recovery agent Monday night.

"It's very rare I would send a recovery agent," Tracey Hawk of Hawk Bail Bonds told The News-Sun (http://bit.ly/1qSpr0D). "I prefer not to."

Hawk said it is simpler in a vast majority of cases to just make contact with the person who co-signed on the bond or the wanted person.

"It's simple," Hawk said. "It's easy."

Dana Ginder and her husband, Kerry, operate the bail bonds business in Auburn started by her father, Claude Wallen.

Dana Ginder said 95 percent of the people for whom she writes bonds show up for court just like they are supposed to. Of the 5 percent who do miss an appearance, 90 percent of those simply forgot or had a work conflict and are eager to get things right with the court.

For those who aren't, the best way to get them to show up for court or turn themselves into the sheriff's department is the family member who co-signed their bond, Ginder said.

The bail bonds business is licensed by the Indiana Department of Insurance. A bond is basically an insurance policy that a person released from jail will show up for court. Like any insurance policy, a premium must be paid — normally, in the form of 10 percent of the total bond amount.

Such as with a local auto insurance agent, a portion of the premium is passed up to a large insurer. In the auto insurance example, the local agent gets a percentage of the premium and so does the larger insurance company.

Bail bondsmen receive the initial 10 percent, but must be backed by a surety company in the state of Indiana to be licensed.

When a person is released on bond, the bail bondsman is basically guaranteeing to make good on the bond if the suspect does not show up for court. The penalty is graduated, with the entire 100 percent of the bond not forfeited until a person has been on the run for a year.

When a person needs to bond out of jail, bail bondsmen often ask for a cosigner, someone who will agree to shoulder the financial burden if a person misses a court date. When that person does miss court, that family member or friend is legally responsible.

In cases of large bonds, a family member must prove the financial means to pay for the bond, perhaps putting up the equity in a home as collateral.

Once such a cosigner finds out a person has missed a court date, the cosigner becomes the best advocate a bail bondsman could hope for it most cases, Ginder said. A family member looking to have a lien put on a home wants the person to turn himself or herself in as badly as the bonding agent.

Picking the right person to bond is critical.

Jeff LaBrosse, of JL Bail Bond Service in Angola, has been in the business for 27 years. He said the industry is similar to the stock market. If a stock broker chooses a risky stock, money could be lost. If a bail bondsman isn't particular who is given bond, there is a risk.

"I have to be very careful who I pick and choose," LaBrosse said.

"You have to get a feel for the families," Ginder said.

Bail bondsmen routinely decline to offer bond for people who either can't get someone to cosign for them or who are significant flight risks. There are other times that family members believe the person is best served by spending a few days in jail.

"We've had moms or dads say no," Ginder said.

Dana Ginder said for the most part, bail works for people. The other option is people spending time in jail and potentially losing a job.

"People make mistakes," LaBrosse said. "I always like to see guys get back to work."

"We are in a professional industry," Ginder said. "We are here to provide a service."

Dana Ginder, Hawk and LaBrosse all said they avoid the types of dangerous pick-ups such as the one that occurred in Cromwell last week.

In that instance, three recovery agents went to the home without the backup of law enforcement. Helman had been involved in a standoff with police a few years before.

"No way would I go into that kind of situation without law enforcement," Ginder said.

"I'm not going to be chasing bad guys like that," LaBrosse said.

Ginder said she worked in the industry for five years with her father, then left. She and her husband have taken over the business since her father's death earlier this year.

She said she never has had to go herself and use the arrest powers granted by her state license to apprehend a fugitive.

"I'm licensed to, but I don't," Hawk said. "I'm a woman. I'm not safe to do those things."

Those situations are when licensed recovery agents occasionally are used by local bondsmen.

One area bondsman who bucks that trend is Les Alligood of Rome City. Alligood, a former state trooper, has been a bondsman since 1996. He goes and gets suspects who have bonded out, taking advantage of state and federal laws that give such licensed bondsman wide-ranging powers, including transporting a prisoner across state lines.

If a man wanted in Noble County is arrested in California, he must be given the option of an extradition hearing, which involves the governors and attorney generals from both states getting involved.

If Alligood tracks down the man himself, he simply can apprehend him and transport him to Noble County.

Alligood said the key to bringing in a fugitive who has fled is being smart about it. Being unfamiliar with the layout of a residence is a big stumbling block to choosing that for a pickup location.

"You've got the element of surprise one time and one time only," Alligood said. "The last place you want to arrest a person is in their own home."

Alligood said he prefers to pick up people at their places of employment or in box store parking lots.

The life

"I really enjoy it, getting involved in people's lives," Alligood said of his profession. "Every bond has its story."

Hawk said she was interested in the traditional insurance business, but with a young family, she chose becoming a bail bondsman because it didn't tie her down to an office.

"I had more freedom to be with my son," she said.

"You have to have the personality for it," Dana Ginder said. "You have to have a dominant personality. You can't have a passive personality."

You also have to be willing to get up at all hours of the night.

"We do not close," she said of her business. "If I go to the shower, I take the phone with me. You have to make yourself available."


Information from: The News-Sun, http://www.kpcnews.com

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