There was a notorious cat fight in San Diego County in the spring of 2012. It happened at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, but not during the annual cat show. The fight happened during a circus act.
“She had grabbed my hair and shirt pretty much at the same time, and was ripping at it,” said soft-spoken Kallie Lamb Helwig. “At the time I had very long hair. It went past and below my waist, and my hair [hung] down straight.” Not anymore.
Helwig tried to save her beautiful hair. “I attempted to get her hands out of my hair. So I felt up my head through my hair and pulled [at] her hands. And I tried to pull her hands off, but I couldn’t because she’d wrapped my hair multiple times around her hands. So then I followed her arm up to her hair, and I tried pulling it down, and I repeated at least three times, ‘Let go and I’ll let go!’ At the same time, there were so many people converged around us. Everybody was saying, ‘Let go!’ to both of us.”
A witness said both women were bent over at the waist, clutching each other’s hair. Then someone took hold of the other woman’s shoulders and tried to pull her free. Helwig stumbled and fell to the ground.
“Unfortunately,” she said, “I don’t think he knew that she had her hands wrapped in my hair.”
The scuffle was brief, Helwig said. “From when she first struck until we were separated, I would say no longer than 15 seconds. She ultimately let go, and I felt her release.” Helwig was crouched over, down on the ground. Both women were on the ground.
Some of Helwig’s hair had been pulled out. There were scabs, later, where hair used to be. Security personnel took photographs of Helwig right after the fracas. In the photos, Helwig has her hair pulled up into a messy ponytail that spills down one side of her head. “The way she had wrapped her hands around my hair, it had matted, and I could not brush it out. And so I had to put it up.” It was a quick repair, using a hair tie that Helwig’s mother had given her because she was going out on a date.
It was an unsightly incident during a date with a man she was trying to impress. Helwig had arranged the date herself. She bought tickets to the last performance of Cirque du Soleil in San Diego County. This was May 27, 2012. Helwig drove to pick up Gerald Torello, her date. They rented a hotel room near the Del Mar Fairgrounds before heading off to the show.
The scuffle left Helwig hurting. “I had a strain in my neck, and spasms in my neck and back. And headaches. And a contusion to the top of my head.” Because of the bare patches where her hair had been ripped out, Helwig cut the rest of her hair short. “Yes, I had to cut my hair.”
She admitted that she hit the other woman first, in the head. “I punched her.” But Helwig had felt threatened. Then, “I struck her twice more.” She admitted, “She never made any specific threat of bodily harm.”
Helwig denied that, after the circus performance, she was waiting near the exit specifically to attack the other woman. “Well, I was looking for my mom. I was scanning for my mom. I had attempted to go find her, but I was waiting to exit.”
Helwig didn’t know where her mom was sitting during the show; they did not have seats together. “I told her I’d see her after the show. We hadn’t made any specific plans on where we were going to meet.”
Helwig didn’t know where Torello was, either, during the slugging and hair-pulling and the tumble to the ground.
After that day, Helwig said, she and Torello “stopped dating.”
After the other woman let go of Helwig’s hair, someone told her to “Just leave, just get out of here.” She did not see her date, nor her mom, “so I walked down the stairs.” She was embarrassed that her shirt was torn, exposing her bra. “I tried to fix my brassiere.”
She walked out into the dark parking lot. “They had shuttles, but I didn’t take one because I was so embarrassed [about] the way I looked.”
Helwig decided to go to the car; she had the keys, but “Nobody was there. So I started returning to the fairgrounds — we were in the fairgrounds still — but [I started] back to the tent. And as I’m walking, I see sheriff’s vehicles with their overheads on.” Helwig’s mom called her cell phone. “‘Hey,’ [my mom] said, ‘the sheriffs [deputies] are on their way. They’re going to want a statement from you.’ I was already on my way back, so I told my mom, ‘I’m on my way. I’ll be there shortly.’”
That’s when Helwig next saw Torello. She was coming out of the parking lot, walking toward the sheriff’s vehicles. Torello looked concerned. “He said, ‘What happened to you?’ Then he asked me if I was okay because I looked disheveled.”
Kallie Helwig explains
Helwig was 25 years old in February 2013, when she took the witness stand to explain herself. She’d been charged with battery, for hitting the other woman. There were other criminal charges, too.
Her own, friendly attorney asked, “Why did the fight begin?”
“It began because she approached me,” Helwig said. “I felt threatened, and I felt that I had no other choice but to defend myself.”
Prosecutor Tracy Prior said, “Nothing about this was a fight. It was an attack.”
Helwig explained that it began when she bought tickets for the Cirque du Soleil show “as a gift” for her mother. “It was my mother’s birthday.” Helwig bought three tickets to the “Totem” performance. The total cost came to $339.50.
She also invited Torello to the show. They’d been dating about three weeks. They’d gone bowling and to the movies.