Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Children of Thunder: The Helzer Brothers

The Stinemans

Annette Stineman
Annette Stineman
Annette Stineman, 78, and her husband Ivan, 85, had been married 55 years and were living out their golden years a few miles away from the Concord house rented by the Helzer boys and Dawn Godman that fatal August.

Taylor had been their stock broker at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, and the couple completely trusted the young man. He'd cultivated a friendship with them over the years, dropping in to visit them and even taking them river rafting one summer along with their adult daughter, Nancy Hall.

"I believe they were buddies," Hall testified at the murder trial. "My father didn't have a son, so he liked the idea."

The Stinemans weren't Taylors first choice. He'd written down the names of five former clients, prosecutors told the court, but the first man -- who lived in the nearby town of Walnut Creek -- was not home when the Helzer boys came calling on Sunday, July 30, so they moved on to the No. 2 slot on their list, the Stinemans.

According to the criminal complaint, the Helzer brothers, wearing suits and carrying briefcases, knocked on the door as Godman waited in a white pickup nearby. They'd purchased shackles at an adult bookstore earlier in the day to immobilize their victims, and brought them back to their rental home.

The jurors heard testimony from a manager of the Concord branch of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter who said he received a phone call from a woman saying she was Annette Stineman who wanted to liquidate her investments.

"She sounded nervous," George Cahoun said. "There was a level of tension there that was obvious."

Although the request was unusual, he honored it. Prosecutors believe the trio then forced the Stinemans to drink Rohypnol, a sedative and known "date rape" drug, and made them write out two checks -- one for $33,000, the other for $67,000 -- to Selina Bishop.

As the victims' relatives gasped and cried, Godman told a court in May 2004 what happened to the Stinemans during their final hours at the Helzer residence.

Taylor thought the retirees would overdose on the Rohypnol and die, but they didn't. They nearly slipped into a coma, but kept breathing. The brothers lead the wobbly couple to the bathroom, where Justin bashed Ivan Stineman's head against the tile floor and Taylor slit Annette's throat with a hunting knife as Godman watched.

"I couldn't really believe that this was really happening," she told the court. "The only thing I could do was pray that [the couple] would die, so it would just be done with."

They next day, they hacked the bodies to pieces with a power saw. Taylor had his little brother do most of the dirty work.

"Taylor said he had more important things to do, like sit and meditate and listen to the spirit," Godman testified.

Afterward, the trio knelt beside the body parts and Taylor thanked the Stinemans for "being willing to sacrifice their lives for a greater cause," Godman said, according to the Chronicle.

They tried to feed the Stinemans' remains to dogs they'd adopted from a pound for that purpose, but the plan didn't work. Instead, they stuffed the body parts into gym bags. They gathered rocks and stepping stones from the outside of the house to weigh down the bags.

The next day, according to the Chronicle, Godman rolled into Walnut Creek in a wheelchair wearing a flamboyant gold cowboy hat. She told the teller she wanted to deposit two checks totaling $100,000 into Bishop's bank account. Bishop was getting open heart surgery, Godman explained, and she needed to deposit the money from Bishop's "grandparents" into the account immediately so she could pay for the operation. She was doing the family a favor by agreeing to deposit the funds, she said.

Authorities said the checks were cashed, but didn't divulge who cashed them or when they did it. Sources close to the case theorized that Bishop cashed the checks for Taylor then got cold feet and threatened to report the scheme to police, prompting the brothers to murder her, as well.

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