Feb 22, 2010


This is what the electric box in the columns was supposed to look like. The guy fixed them this morning without too much dispute. The good excuse he offered for the snafu was lame.

It has been raining here for most of the past three days, so not much got done today beyond fixing the boxes.

I did awake to find that my new plumbing for the irrigation system had sprung a gusher over night and that there was a river running down the street. God knows how much water we wasted. Anyway, it was a simple repair and hopefully nothing else fails plumbing-wise.

Enough about that.

Maybe you've heard of Beatrice, Nebraska or maybe not. Same for a group called the Beatrice Six.

Beatrice is a city of between 12,000 and 13,000 folks in the southeast corner of Nebraska, about 40 miles south of Lincoln. As the saying goes, it may not be the middle of nowhere, but you can sure see the middle of nowhere from Beatrice. It is also the county seat of Gage County.

Beatrice is a peaceful sort of place, with just 2 homicides in the past decade.

Beatrice became most famous recently for the exoneration of six people who had been convicted in the rape and murder of a 68-year-old woman.

Helen Wilson was found by relatives, raped and murdered in her home in 1985.

FBI and the Beatrice police conducted the original investigation and biological evidence, including hair samples, blood and semen were gathered and preserved.

From the beginning of the investigation FBI agents told local authorities that the crime was likely committed by a lone killer. Local authorities were dismissive of that idea, even though they were unable to find any suspects in the case.

Frustrated and out of ideas, the Beatrice police turned their investigation over to the Gage County sheriff's office to continue the investigation.   Gage County investigators quickly found, not a lone killer, but a band of six alleged killers. They cited robbery as a motive, seeing as how Mrs. Wilson had a large amount of cash in her home. Cash which was not taken by the killer(s) by the way.

Joseph White, James Dean, Joann Taylor, Debra Shelden, Kathy Gonzales and Thomas Winslow were all arrested and charged with killing Mrs. Wilson. They were young, living on the fringes of "decent society" and one or more suffered some level of mental illness.

There was never any direct evidence linking any of the suspects to the killing. The killer had type B blood and one of the women arrested had type B blood. That's it. Everything else in the case seems to be the result of police manipulation of the suspects.

Police detectives used lies about others implicating them, lengthy periods of interrogation, sleep deprivation and psychological manipulation to convince the five that they were involved, even if they didn't remember being at the crime scene or committing the crime. They even enlisted a psychiatrist to "help" at least one suspect regain her lost memories of the incident.
To this day one of the women in the case is convinced that she was present at the killing, but did not participate, even though physical evidence discounts that as a possibility.

In war that's called brainwashing. In American justice, it's called diligent police work.

Five of the six suspects "admitted" their guilt to detectives from the Gage County Sheriff's office and those admissions were used to convict the sixth suspect at trial. Three of the six spent four years in prison and the remaining three, nearly 20 years behind bars.

 The police work in this case strongly resembles that of Ron Williamson, chronicled in the John Grisham book, An Innocent Man. The Gage County authorities used many of the same techniques to wrongfully convict The Beatrice Six..

In the end, five of the six suspects accepted jail terms to avoid execution, a decision that surely saved their lives.

Recent DNA testing showed that the none of the six was the killer or had even been at the scene.   Rather, DNA evidence showed that the real killer to be a now-deceased convict from Oklahoma, whom none of the six knew.  The FBI's "lone killer" theory was correct.

The man convicted on the say so of the other five, was exonerated in 2009 and the remainder pardoned in January of this year, including two who were still in prison.

Nebraska is debating a ban on executions and let's hope sanity prevails. Only happenstance kept the state from executing one or more of these wrongly-convicted folks.






Things in this blog represented to be fact, may or may not actually be true. The writer is frequently wrong, sometimes just full of it, but always judgmental and cranky

11 comments:

mouse (aka kimy) said...

what a lovely centered box.

there is something wrong with a system that is based on killing people to show people that killing people is wrong...and the system is really wrong when the people killed weren't the people who killed people in the first place....

oh me oh my...that is a lovely centered box.

The Bug said...

It's frightening - it truly is.

Megan said...

Those cop shows crack me up - a DNA test within the hour! Yeah, right. Try months, if not years...

Barbara said...

How very sad and scary. No penal system can ever reimburse those wrongfully imprisoned for the time they spent behind bars. Those were unnecessarily ruined lives.

Glad you got the box fixed with so little hassle.

Kurt said...

Fortunately, your new fence will keep those kind of people out.

Reya Mellicker said...

Can you imagine what it would feel like to be freed after spending years in jail? Incredible.

Capital punishment is the most cold blooded murder in the world, and as you said, irreversible.

dennis said...

Dennis agrees with Megan.

Annie Ha said...

That just makes me sick to my stomach.

Steve said...

Wow. I've never heard of this case, but that's truly appalling. Yikes.

edward said...

i agree with kurt

Bella Rum said...

this stuff just keeps happening. when will we learn?