California jury recommends death for quintuple murderer


Saturday, December 18th 2004, 11:40 am
By: News On 6


MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) _ Jurors tried to avoid recommending the death penalty for a man who pleaded guilty to killing the daughter of blues guitarist Elvin Bishop and four others but could not, the jury's foreman said.

It took jurors about two days before deciding Friday that Glenn Taylor Helzer, 34, should be put to death.

``We went through everything we could think of to find mitigating circumstances, but we couldn't,'' said Bernie Rose. ``So we made the only decision the law allowed.''

The defense had argued for a sentence of life in prison without parole, claiming Helzer was mentally ill and under the influence of drugs when he led his brother and their roommate in the slayings.

In August, a separate jury in the same Contra Costa County courtroom convicted and recommended the death penalty for Helzer's younger brother, Justin.

The Helzer brothers and their roommate, Dawn Godman, killed five people, including 22-year-old Selina Bishop, in 2000 during a plot to extort $100,000.

Glenn Helzer said he wanted to use the money to start a self-help group to thwart Satan by spreading peace and love.

Bishop's mother, Jennifer Villarin, 45, and Villarin's companion, James Gamble, 54, were shot to death in Villarin's home because Glenn Helzer feared they would report them for the extortion.

Also killed were the targets of the extortion plot, Ivan Stineman, 85, and his wife, Annette, 78.

The brothers dismembered the bodies of Bishop and the Stinemans, wrapped the remains in plastic, stuffed them into gym bags and tossed the bags in a river. The bags later floated to the surface.

Glenn Helzer surprised his lawyers by pleading guilty earlier this year. Justin Helzer, 32, was tried separately and pleaded not guilty, claiming he was under the spell of his older brother.

Godman, 30, testified for the prosecution in exchange for a sentence of 38 years to life.