Hearing for trio accused in five deaths expected to wrap up

By Kim Curtis, The Associated Press
Friday December 21, 2001

MARTINEZ — A judge decided Thursday that prosecutors have enough evidence to go ahead with a trial in the grisly killings of five people last summer. 

Prosecutors say the deaths, including the daughter of blues guitarist Elvin Bishop, were part of a bizarre extortion, drug-dealing and prostitution scheme. 

The case against Glenn Taylor Helzer, 31, his brother, Justin, 29, and friend Dawn Godman, 27, was presented to a judge during the past two weeks in a preliminary hearing. 

The crimes, part of a scheme to fund a self-improvement program and spread a message of peace and love, were intended “to secure money by unlawful means for Taylor Helzer to impact America in his image,” prosecutor Hal Jewett has charged. 

All three are charged with capital murder in the stabbing deaths of Selina Bishop, the daughter of the blues guitarist, and Taylor Helzer’s former financial clients, Ivan Stineman, 85, and his wife, Annette, 78. 

The dismembered remains of the three were separated into nine duffel bags and found in the Mokelumne River in August 2000. 

The trio also faces charges in the shooting deaths of Selina Bishop’s mother, Jennifer Villarin, and the mother’s companion, James Gamble. 

The Helzer brothers and Godman have pleaded innocent to all charges, including five counts of murder, conspiracy, extortion, false imprisonment and drug possession. 

Dozens of witnesses took the stand to talk about Taylor Helzer’s plan to start a self-improvement program called “Impact America,” modeled after a program the trio attended. 

Taylor Helzer told one witness he needed $20 million to meet with politicians and get into schools to spread a message of peace and love. He said his goal was to save the world, even if he had to commit crimes to do it. 

Jewett says the trio held the Stinemans in their Concord home and forced them to liquidate nearly $200,000 in stock. Bishop’s bank account was used to launder the money. 

Taylor Helzer was portrayed by a string of witnesses as the charismatic leader of the threesome. He once told a cousin he wanted to get rich so he could start his own country — a place free of rules and regulations with its morality defined by “Impact America.” 

A police detective read Taylor Helzer’s ”12 Principles of Magic” in court, which included: “There is no such thing as right and wrong” and “I am already perfect, and therefore, can do nothing wrong.” 

He meticulously studied the law, researched mental illness and concocted money-making schemes, witnesses said. 

A friend of the trio said one proposal included finding 16- and 17-year-old runaways in Las Vegas and taking them on a cruise ship where Taylor Helzer would have sex with them. That would prepare them for sex with stockbrokers from the investment firm where Helzer had worked. 

They would then blackmail the brokers and the minors would sue their clients because they were underage. 

The trio also kept meticulous to-do lists. One found in their kitchen included the following: “Call lawyers, study multiple personalities, go to dentist, get guns, get a divorce, declare bankruptcy.” 

The Helzer brothers were raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and met Godman at a church social. Friends told investigators that Godman was a devout Mormon and moved up quickly within the church’s ranks. 

Lawyers for Godman and Justin Helzer have tried to distance their clients from Taylor Helzer, whose lawyer has said he’s mentally ill. 

A former girlfriend and Playboy centerfold told police Taylor Helzer believed he was a prophet of God.