ARCHER COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — One of three men charged in the savage murder of 24-year-old John Lewis Helms whose body was found on a secluded Archer County road in April 2020 is on trial in Archer City.

41-year-old Charles Ray Hunter is the first of the defendants to be tried.

A three-hour recorded Texas Ranger interview of Hunter was played for the jury.

In the interview after his arrest, Hunter was asked about his involvement in the beating and stabbing in April of last year.

Hunter claims Saconn Ayala of Wichita Falls and Lee Villalpando of Olney arrived at his apartment with Helms, who had allegedly stolen from Hunter’s fiancée.

Hunter said he confronted Helms, then got into an SUV to take Helms to his apartment to retrieve the stolen items, but he said once they left, Villalpando drove down Highway 281 then turned onto a dirt road.

Hunter said the vehicle pulled over, and Villalpando and Ayala pulled Helms out and started beating him then stabbed him five times in the back.

He said they then drove off, leaving Helms on the road, and he could hear him pleading for them to take him to his grandmother’s house.

Hunter denied being involved in the beating and said he didn’t stop it in fear for his life because he knew the two men knew where he and his family lived.

The second defendant, Saconn Ayala, is on the docket and is expected to start once Hunter’s trial is finished.

The third man charged, Lee Villalpando, died in September 2021 before coming to trial.

Authorities said there was another friend of Helms in the vehicle who gave information to investigators and said he was told if he talked, he would end up like Helms.