You won’t want to miss HBO Max’s latest true-crime documentary, Mind Over Murder. The six-part series, which premieres on June 20 at 10 p.m. EDT, investigates the case of the “Beatrice Six,” a group of friends who were falsely convicted of the 1985 murder and rape of Helen Wilson in Beatrice, Nebraska. The series looks at one of the most well-known cases of false memory and wrongful conviction in the country. What happened to the Beatrice Six, and who were they? tvacute.com has everything you need to know.
What are the names of Beatrice Six?
Helen Wilson, a 68-year-old grandmother from Beatrice, Nebraska, had been dead for four years when the group was accused of raping and killing her. She lost her husband young and raised her three kids there. Helen enjoyed her 7 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren and loved building memories with them. Her family visited her often while she lived alone. Helen felt sick on February 5, 1985, so her son Darrell and his wife checked on her. They left and called at midnight to remind her of her medicine. No one answered when they called. Helen’s sister discovered her body the next morning. They contacted 911 at 9:30 am. Helen was on her back, nightgown up. Under the washcloth, detectives saw a scarf securely wrapped across her face. Messy scene. Bloody sheets and fight marks were found. An autopsy found she had pneumonia and suffocated. She’d been raped. Blood and sperm samples were taken from the site, but testing was still limited due to the fact that it was the 1980s.
Ada JoAnn Taylor, Kathy Gonzalez, Joseph White, Thomas Winslow, Debra Shelden, James Dean, and made up the Beatrice Six. They were all found guilty of Wilson’s murder and sentenced to 75 years in jail. They went to court in 2016, and a federal jury awarded the six a total of $28.1 million in damages for the state’s wrongdoings. Gage County attempted to recover monies from a number of insurance providers, but they all declined. In terms of compensation, those who were wrongfully convicted will receive stipends from the government over the next five years. For years, the Beatrice Six fought for their innocence. The six living members of the group now live comfortably, if quietly, on the money they received for their troubles.
Where’s Ada JoAnn Taylor Now?
Ada grew up on a North Carolina cattle farm. Her stepfather assaulted her until she was 11. In 1981, Ada moved to Beatrice, Nebraska, with her lover. She was pregnant at 18 years old. Three weeks later, her partner dumped her. Ada attended high school and raised her daughter alone. Ada was diagnosed with BPD by a psychologist. She gave up her parental rights in 1985 and moved to Los Angeles to conduct sex business. In South California, Ada met Joseph White, who wanted to help Beatrice battle for her daughter’s custody. Helen Wilson, 68, was raped and murdered in the same town months later. Her body was found at 9:30 am on February 6, 1985. Ada agreed to Burdette’s interrogation suggestions. Ada stated she protected Helen with a cushion. “My father’s face has haunted me since my rape,” she added. I didn’t want her to see her nightmare. “I didn’t know I killed her.”
DNA tests revealed that none of the six were engaged in the crime until August 2008. All of them had been pardoned by January 2009. Ada earned her GED in 2008 and took a couple of classes at a community college in Omaha, Nebraska. She intended to attend Bellevue University in Nebraska at the time. Aside from having a relationship with her child, Ada started going to church on a daily basis. Ada later admitted that she lied to the authorities because they said they had proof to establish her guilt. She received $500,000 for her erroneous conviction and $7.3 million in a civil suit in July 2016. Ada wanted to use the money to purchase a little house. Her principal source of income was disability benefits as of 2017, and she returned to North Carolina after being released.
Where’s Thomas Winslow Now?
Thomas Winslow, 23 and depressed, was arrested in 1989. The same doctor diagnosed Ada JoAnn Taylor, the first arrestee. Ada alleged “another boy” in Helen’s murder during interrogation. Her description differed. Lisa Podendorf alerted Burdette Searcey about Ada’s confession, leading to her imprisonment. She also saw Thomas with Ada, Joseph White, and another person near Helen’s apartment that morning. Thomas was questioned again in February 1989 while in jail for assault. He admitted lying about his location and said he lent his automobile to Ada, Joseph, and Cliff Shelden. Thomas said he first heard Ada and Joseph talking about robbing an old woman on February 5, 1985. Afterward, he said they dropped him off and returned the car.
Thomas was sexually abused multiple times in prison and was hesitant to seek DNA testing. In 2008, DNA testing proved Thomas and the others weren’t guilty. Thomas was resentenced to time served and released from jail after 18 years; his conviction was vacated. In 2011, Thomas was paid $180,000 for his wrongful conviction and $7.3 million in a civil suit. Since then, Thomas has avoided the public eye and was last seen in Oklahoma. He formerly worked in Omaha.
Where is Kathy Gonzalez Today?
Kathy Gonzalez resided in the murder victim’s building. Kathy told sheriff’s deputy and psychologist Wayne Price she wasn’t in Helen’s apartment during the murder. Kathy’s blood type matched murder scene blood. One genetic marker differed. Burdette Searcey, the detective who reopened the investigation, told her that her blood matched what was found at Helen’s apartment. In June 1989, a polygraph test revealed Kathy was lying.
Kathy eventually claimed she had no recollection of the murder, but she pled no contest to second-degree murder aiding and abetting because she faced the death penalty if convicted at trial. Kathy also testified at Joseph White’s trial, claiming that he mentioned conducting a burglary. Kathy, like James and Debra, was given a ten-year term, but only served around half of it. She later changed her mind about her testimony.
She finally lived in York, Nebraska, but regretted not fleeing the state immediately after her release because some residents still felt the six were guilty. Kathy worked as a clerk at a York supermarket shop as of 2019. She received $350,000 in damages for the erroneous conviction, as well as $2 million in damages from the civil suit. Kathy expressed her hopes for the money in a 2019 interview, saying that it would help her buy a car, replace her teeth, and install an air conditioner in her home.
Where is James Dean Now?
Debra Shelden framed James Dean in April 1989. Construction worker at 25. His first instinct was to wail and say he hadn’t killed Helen. Dean failed a polygraph. James saw crime scene images and visited Helen’s apartment in May 1989. He informed police he and others committed the crime. James said, “I feel like I dreamed it. I had a subconscious block. I don’t know what it was and couldn’t remember, so I said I wasn’t there. James gave investigators eight distinct accounts about the 1985 murder, each with different details. He said much of the knowledge came from dreams.
In May 1989, James pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He served four-and-a-half years of a 10-year sentence. James testified at Joseph’s trial. James, Ada Taylor, and Debra were diagnosed with Stockholm syndrome. James earned $300,000 for the wrongful conviction and $2 million in the civil trial after being exonerated in January 2009. He was engaged to Lydia Buckley at the time of the judicial proceedings. James has kept a low profile since then, but it was stated in 2009 that he was a truck driver in Salinas, Kansas.
Where is Debra Shelden Today?
Debra, Helen Wilson’s grandniece, hung out with Ada JoAnn Taylor’s gang at the time. Debra, like Ada, was married and had a kid, but her stepfather sexually abused her as a child. Debra said she observed the incident in April 1989. She said Joseph shoved her, causing a head wound. In an interview, she said James Dean was at the crime site. Debra dreamed that. Debra Shelden pleaded guilty to second-degree murder assistance and was sentenced to 10 years. Kathy said Debra greeted deputies and jailers routinely while in prison. After four-and-a-half years, she was released. Even though DNA testing indicated Debra wasn’t involved in 2008, she wasn’t convinced.Debra said the murderer, Bruce Allen, wasn’t in the house with them.
Debra and the state negotiated a $300,000 settlement in 2014 for Debra’s unjust conviction, with $50,000 paid immediately. She was then awarded $1.8 million as part of the civil claim. She, on the other hand, was first opposed to the concept of even applying for a pardon. Debra was reported to be homeless in 2014 while living in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her husband in a vehicle. She was still in Lincoln. Debra Shelden’s last known location.
Where is Joseph White Now?
The only person tried for Helen’s murder was Joseph White. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in 1989. In exchange for reduced terms, some of his co-defendants falsely testified against him. However, in later years, Joseph became sympathetic to them. In October of 2008, Joseph was freed from prison. Later, he and the others sued Gage County, Nebraska, and some of the cops involved in the case in civil court. They won the case in 2016, but Joseph had already perished in a work-related tragedy in 2011 when he was crushed to death by a crane. His estate received $7.3 million in damages.
So, how did six people end up being falsely accused of the same murder?
Six people were wrongfully convicted as a result of some psychological games conducted by investigators at the time. When the six persons were brought in for interrogation, they were told that their minds had repressed the memory of the crime. At least three of the six believed they had committed the murder after adequate persuasion from the cops. That sentiment didn’t apply to one of the six, Joseph White, who realized there was no way he could have been involved in Wilson’s murder and struggled for years to prove his innocence. A jury awarded $7.3 million each to Winslow, Taylor, and White’s estate in July 2016, after a trial of the lawsuit; $2 million each to Dean and Gonzalez; and $1.8 million to Shelden.
Who killed Helen Wilson in Beatrice?
A pocketbook was discovered near the building at the time, thought to have been stolen by Bruce from a woman at the party. The next day, another witness claimed to have seen blood on Bruce. Bruce was apprehended and interrogated in Oklahoma. He denied any involvement in the crime, but he did produce DNA and blood samples. The blood type of the samples taken on the scene was a rare and particular type. Bruce was fired after the lab results revealed that he was not a match. As the inquiry progressed, the authorities picked up six prospective suspected of being engaged in the crime. The “Beatrice Six” was dubbed as a group.
The original tests done on Bruce’s blood turned out to be incorrect. The analyst who conducted the tests in Oklahoma was later charged with fabricating evidence. Bruce has a criminal record as well. In 1981, he was arrested for rape, although there is no record of his conviction. Between 1987 to 1989, he was convicted of burglary and served time in Oklahoma. Bruce, sadly, he never face justice for his crimes since he died of AIDS in Oklahoma in September 1992. Modern DNA testing on blood and sperm samples from Wilson’s apartment took years to prove that the six were not the murderers. DNA evidence identified Bruce Allen Smith, an earlier key suspect in the murder in 2008, and the Beatrice Six were all exonerated the next year. After the revelation and began their legal battle against the state.