Cult murder-extortion brother attempts suicide

San Francisco Chronicle/January 23, 2010

San Quentin - One of two brothers sentenced to death in Contra Costa County in 2005 for slaughtering five people in a bizarre murder-extortion plot designed to hasten Christ's return to Earth has been hospitalized after apparently trying to commit suicide.

Justin Helzer, 37, was found in his cell at San Quentin State Prison about 2:20 p.m. Thursday, said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Helzer was taken to a hospital, where he was in critical condition. Citing privacy concerns, Thornton would not discuss the manner in which Helzer injured himself.

"I am saddened," Helzer's attorney, Daniel Cook, said today. "If true, it would appear to be another indication of a deeply troubled man, unable to cope with the profound psychological forces that have so greatly influenced and impacted him for so long."

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.

They then 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 Bishop's mother, Jennifer Villarin, and Villarin's boyfriend, James Gamble, at Bishop's Marin County home because Villarin had seen his face and he was afraid she could identify him.

During his 2004 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." Godman was described as a lonely woman who was hooked on speed and had tried to kill herself.

Glenn Helzer, a former stockbroker, enlisted them in a cult-like 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 39, were sentenced to death. Godman, now 34, was sentenced to 38 years to life in prison.

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