ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) - A Missouri prosecutor is refusing to answer any questions after a victim says she's waited far too long for justice.
She says she suffered horrific sexual abuse by her stepfather many years ago. But he remains free and she's not yet gotten to face him in court.
“I am a victim of two sick people,” said Heather Helm. “My whole life was taken from me in my opinion, from childhood, all the way up to my adulthood.”
Starting in Jefferson County, when she was just 9-years-old, Heather says she was sexually assaulted by her stepfather, Henry Leland.
“It was just touching for a while, and it turned into more,” she said.
“How many times do you think you were raped?” asked investigative reporter Lauren Trager.
“Thousands. I cannot put a number on it. I am going to say out of weeks’ time, seven days, I would say 3-4 times a week,” Heather said. “I was lucky on some nights it didn't happen, those were my lucky nights, and those were my good nights,” she said.
It went on for years, but it wasn't just Leland. Heather says her own mother participated in the abuse.
According to the court documents, Sandra Cissell, Heather's mother, would allegedly take Heather out of her own bedroom and put her in Leland’s room so that Leland could have intercourse with her.
The documents say Heather's "mother would help Leland take off her clothes and tie her limbs to the bed post and then leave the room, locking it until the rape was 'done and over.”'
“I was guided to be a sex slave by my own parents,” Heather said.
Then, at just 14-years-old, Heather got pregnant by Leland. She gave birth to a son.
Even still, she says the raping continued, with escalated threats.
“My son was threatened to be killed, I was threatened to be killed,” she said.
She stayed relatively silent, something experts say is common.
“Many individuals go into their adulthood without ever telling,” said Linda McQuary with the Child Advocacy Center. She added that a victim may delay reporting, especially if threats are made.
“Just that, ‘You'll get in trouble’ to they will get killed, their mother will be killed, their dog will get killed,’” she said.
The abuse finally stopped when Heather got older.
After years of living with the memories of the horror and with her son fully grown, Heather decided it was time to speak up.
“I am not scared anymore, I am not scared to come forward to say you did this, you deserve to pay for it,” Heather said.
In 2017, Heather came forward to police. Both Leland and Cissell were charged with multiple counts of rape and sodomy.
But fast forward to now, years later, and there is still no justice.
Cissell's trial is set for next month. Leland's trial is not until April 2020. Both are currently out on bond.
“I want to see him sent to jail. I don't feel like he deserves to walk out here free,” Heather said.
Leland is a previously convicted sex offender for sodomizing another 13-year-old victim in the 1990s.
No one answered News 4 messages left for him at multiple homes where he's been registered to live in the past few months.
But Heather says she feels ignored, too, by the system itself.
“The prosecutor doesn’t seem to want to prosecute, because Mr. Leland is internally sick, I guess,” she said.
Heather, frustrated by how slow the case is moving, wonders if the prosecutor is intentionally delaying due to Leland’s age.
For months News 4 tried to get answers from Madison County, Missouri prosecutor Dwight Robbins, who is handling the Leland case. Our repeated emails and calls were ignored. So, we went to his Fredericktown office, but Robbins refused to talk to News 4.
“I am the victim, he's supposed to be on my side, to me that's what a prosecutor is supposed to do,” Heather said.
Now, Heather says all she can do is wait for the day she can face Leland down in court.
“I feel he needs to pay for what he did,” she said.
News 4 reached out to Heather's mother, Sandra Cissell, but never heard back.
Experts say it’s not uncommon for victims to get frustrated with the slow wheels of justice.
Help for victims is available. You can find a list of resources, here.