One of two brothers sentenced to death in Contra Costa Countyin 2005 for killing five people in a bizarre murder-extortion plot designed to hasten Christ’s return to Earth has hanged himself in prison, authorities said Monday. Justin Helzer, 41, was found in his cell at San Quentin State Prison on Sunday night, said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He used a bedsheet to hang himself, she said.
In 2010, Helzer tried to kill himself by stabbing himself in the eye with a pen, authorities said.The attorney who defended him at his 2004 trial, Daniel Cook, said in a statement Monday that he was “sorry, but not surprised, to learn that Justin’s profound (and apparently progressive) mental illness has manifested itself one last time.”
Helzer, his older brother Glenn Helzer and Dawn Godman were convicted of bludgeoning and dismembering Ivan Stineman, 85, and his wife, Annette, 78, of Concord, during a plot to extort $100,000 from them in the summer of 2000.Then they killed Selina Bishop – daughter of blues guitarist Elvin Bishop – to silence her after she collected the money. Their bodies were cut up and were found in gym bags that surfaced in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Glenn Helzer, a self-described prophet on a crusade to save the world from Satan, then shot and killed Selina Bishop’s mother, Jennifer Villarin, 45, and her boyfriend James Gamble, 54. Villarin had seen his face, and Helzer was afraid she could identify him, authorities said. During his trial, Justin Helzer was portrayed as a shy young man whose older brother often told him, “I’m No. 1, and you’re No. 2.”
Glenn Helzer, a former stockbroker, enlisted his brother and Godman in a plot to train Brazilian orphans to slaughter the leaders of the Mormon church so he could become its prophet and “transform America,” Godman testified.
They needed money for the scheme, so they decided to blackmail one of Glenn Helzer’s former clients. They chose the Stinemans and kidnapped them to extort $100,000 from them. Justin Helzer then beat Ivan Stineman to death, while his brother slashed Annette Stineman’s throat. Justin and Glenn Helzer, now 42, were sentenced to death. Godman, now 39, was sentenced to 38 years to life in prison.