Suspect’s trail goes cold in Maryville store owner’s strangling death

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6 News Reporter

MARYVILLE (WATE)  – Helen Mills, 68, was found strangled to death in August 2002 at the herbal supplement store she ran in downtown Maryville.

Helen opened Herbal Health Concepts because she had a passion for naturopathic healing.

Her children say she was very active and planned to lead a long, healthy life. “The door to the shop was always open. When anyone needed help, she was there,” says her daughter, Deb Segar.

They say their father found their mother strangled to death with a zip tie behind the counter of her store.

Whoever killed her locked the door to the shop and even turned the sign over to say closed.

On the day Helen was murdered, her husband, Doug Mills, planned to pick her up when the store closed. Their plan was to head to North Carolina for the Mayberry Fair since Helen was a huge fan of Andy Griffith.

But Doug was running a little late. “He blamed himself saying that if he had been there on time, none of this would have ever happened. He was always punctual his whole life, never late,” says their son, Steve Mills.

For three years after Helen's murder, her husband was very aggressive in trying to find his wife's killer. He set up a website and worked constantly with the media.

“I saw her legs, and I looked and saw her teeth on the floor. There was blood coming out of her mouth. She'd been strangled,” Doug said in an interview with 6 News before he passed away in 2005.

“I think this did him in,” said their daughter, Deb, about her father's mental state before he died.

After his death, the case went cold.

Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp says there are a few reasons why they have never nailed any suspects.

“This case is tough for two reasons. She had no known enemies and was well loved in the community. Also the crime was done in a public place that was frequented by many people,” Chief Crisp said.

The couple's four children continue to live with the pain of not knowing what happened to their mother.

“There's a hole in my heart, and I wish it could be closed no matter what it takes. I don't think the who matters. I just want an answer,” Segar says.

If you have information about Helen Mills' murder, call the Maryville Police Department at 865-273-3700.

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