Forensic specialist Paul Holes recalls the case of a mass-murdering stockbroker bent on stealing his clients’ money to start a new cult. The plan goes horribly wrong, as does the initial forensic investigation.
Guest: Paul Holes
Paul Holes is a bestselling author, podcaster, television host and retired cold-case investigator with the sheriff’s and district attorney’s offices in California’s Contra Costa County. During his 27 years as an investigator, Holes used his behavioral and forensic expertise in such notable cases as the Zodiac murders, Golden State Killer, and Jaycee Dugard kidnapping. In May 2022, Holes published “Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases” – which became an instant New York Times bestseller. Paul teamed with the FBI and Sacramento DA to help identify Joseph DeAngelo as the Golden State Killer, the most prolific serial predator in U.S. history. In 2019, he teamed up with Oxygen to host ”The DNA of Murder with Paul Holes” and in November he’s launching a new original series with HLN called, ”Real Life Nightmare with Paul Holes.”Read Transcript
Yeardley: [00:00:05] Hey, Small Town Fam, it’s Yeardley. How are you, guys? Welcome to a brand-new episode of your favorite podcast. We are so happy that you’re here. So, if you’ve been following along this season, you will remember that we started out with a case from our own Detective Dan. The second episode of the season was a case from our own Detective Dave. And so, it seems only fitting that the third case should come from the one and only, Paul Holes. This case sticks with Paul for the brutality of the murders that were committed, not to mention the lust for power by the ringleader of this band of suspects and the oldest motive in the book, greed.
[00:00:50] So, Paul was a crime scene analyst at the time of this homicide, and he’s tasked with putting together the gruesome details of this crime, so law enforcement can build a case and justice can be served. As so often happens in the crimes we cover on this podcast, even when I find out why someone has committed murder, I’m left with more questions than their motive alone ever answers. This is one of those cases. Here is, Follow The Leader.
[00:01:26] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.
Dan: [00:01:28] I’m Dan.
Dave: [00:01:29] I’m Dave.
Paul: [00:01:29] And I’m Paul.
Yeardley: [00:01:30] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dan: [00:01:33] Dave and I are identical twins.
Dave: [00:01:34] And retired detectives from Small Town, USA.
Paul: [00:01:37] And I’m a veteran cold case investigator who helped catch the Golden State Killer using a revolutionary DNA tool.
Dan: [00:01:43] Between the three of us, we’ve investigated thousands of crimes, from petty theft to sexual assault, child abuse to murder.
Dave: [00:01:50] Each case we cover is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they solved the crime.
Paul: [00:01:57] Names, places, and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of victims and their families.
Dan: [00:02:02] And although we’re aware that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we ask you to please join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved-
Dave: [00:02:10] -out of respect for what they’ve been through.
[unison]: Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:02:22] Today on Small Town Dicks, we have, guess what? The usual suspects. We have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:02:29] Good afternoon, Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:02:30] Good afternoon, David. So happy to see you.
Dave: [00:02:33] It’s very officious.
Yeardley: [00:02:34] [laughs] And we have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:02:36] Hello, team.
Yeardley: [00:02:37] Hello, you. And we have the one and only, Paul Holes.
Paul: [00:02:41] Hey, everybody.
Yeardley: [00:02:42] Hey-hey.
Paul: [00:02:43] Hey-hey. So, today, our case comes from PH, as I like to call him. So, Paul, tell us how this case came to you.
Paul: [00:02:52] I was sitting in my lab space back in August of 2000, and my boss comes in, and she’s like, “You need to get out to Concord now.”
Yeardley: [00:03:03] This is Concord, California? Because I know of a Concord, Massachusetts.
Paul: [00:03:07] This is Concord, California, in Contra Costa County. The story that I got when she initially assigned me was, two of our very senior prosecutors had been called out to a crime scene inside a house in Concord. They had walked into the crime scene and did not like what they were seeing being done by the assigned CSIs there, and basically told the crew, “Stop.” And so, I’m now being pulled out to try to rehabilitate that aspect of this case.
[00:03:47] The reason these prosecutors were at this house is that the crime scene was actually bundled up by the lead CSI handling the processing and put in the back of U-Haul and literally was being taken back to the other agency without it having been properly documented.
Yeardley: [00:04:07] Like, not swabbed, not anything? They just gathered it up in a tarp, so to speak, and put it in the back of a U-Haul?
Paul: [00:04:14] Yes. I walk in and they’re telling me, “Okay, we believe that possibly three people had been killed inside this house, an elderly couple, Ivan and Annette Stineman, as well as a younger woman, Selina Bishop, were thought to have been killed in this house. I’m looking at a house that has been stripped down, and it was just subfloor. The carpeting had been removed, furniture was gone out of the living room, I’m going, “Oh, no, this isn’t looking good.”
[00:04:48] So, I tell these prosecutors, I say, “If you keep me on based on what I saw out there at the crime scene, I’m going to turn into a defense witness, because they’re going to put me on the stand and I’m basically going to say, ‘This is not how you process the crime scene.'” They did debate it, but they go, “No, you know what? From this point on, we want things done right.”
Yeardley: [00:05:09] Who makes the initial call for law enforcement to come to this house in the first place?
Paul: [00:05:15] Well, the backstory up to this point, Ivan and Annette Stineman had been reported missing by the family, and had been missing for a few days. So, Concord PD was investigating a missing person’s case. Meanwhile, Marin Sheriff’s Office had a double homicide in their jurisdiction. A woman and her boyfriend were found shot in the woman’s bedroom. So, Marin is working their double homicide, Concord is working a missing person’s case, and they independently converge on this house in Concord.
Yeardley: [00:05:53] How far away are Concord and Marin?
Paul: [00:05:56] Driving time without traffic, an hour. But it does require going over a bridge. Marin county is the county north of San Francisco. So, that’s what connects the Golden Gate Bridge is what connects Marin to San Francisco. And then there’s a bridge that connects Marin over to Contra Costa County.
Yeardley: [00:06:18] Okay.
Paul: [00:06:20] So, as this case starts unfolding up in Sacramento County, we have the Sacramento River that flows down into this delta region before it flows out into the San Francisco Bay. So, Contra Costa County has part of the Sacramento River delta, as does Sacramento. And up in the Sacramento jurisdiction, duffel bags start floating to the surface with human remains in them, and there are multiple duffel bags.
[00:06:51] We have criminalist that goes up to Sacramento to take a look at these remains, because it turns out very quickly, they’re able to identify, Ivan and Annette Stineman as being two of the three victims. And then the other victim, which was a younger female, she was identified as Selina Bishop. So, you have three bodies that have been dismembered and their remains commingled across 8 to 10 duffel bags.
Yeardley: [00:07:22] That’s horrifying. Paul, how long between the time when you are called to this crime scene that hasn’t been processed properly? How long between that and the body floating to the top of the delta?
Paul: [00:07:38] Same day.
Yeardley: [00:07:38] Oh, my God.
Paul: [00:07:39] Yeah. Everything was happening all at once. So, Concord PD investigators realize that Glenn Helzer has a possible connection to the Stinemans going missing and serve a search warrant.
Yeardley: [00:07:53] And is this house where they scooped up the crime scene? This house belongs to Glenn Helzer?
Paul: [00:07:59] Glenn Helzer and his brother, Justin, were living at this house.
Yeardley: [00:08:04] Got it.
Paul: [00:08:05] Glenn Helzer was the Stineman’s stockbroker.
Yeardley: [00:08:10] Oh, that’s not what I thought you were going to say. [laughs] So, Glenn Helzer was a legit stockbroker.
Paul: [00:08:17] Right. I don’t know how good he was.
Yeardley: [00:08:19] But he was licensed or whatever you need to be.
Paul: [00:08:22] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:08:22] Okay.
Paul: [00:08:24] Marin County, their double homicide with the woman and boyfriend who were shot, they also focus on Glenn Helzer as he was the boyfriend of the woman’s daughter, Selina Bishop.
Yeardley: [00:08:43] And Selina Bishop is the third homicide victim that Helzer murdered along with the Stinemans.
Paul: [00:08:49] That is correct. So, two agencies independently investigating two very different cases or so thought were two different cases. So, now you have two search warrants, and literally, these agencies are walking up to the front door going, “Why are you here?”[laughter]
Paul: [00:09:06] So, obviously, a huge case. They say, “We’ve got three bodies killed inside this house, and we think it’s related to the double homicide that’s up in Marin County.” So, five people killed. So, this house now becomes a very sinister, dark place. This house is ground zero.
Paul: [00:09:44] I’m working now on processing this house.
Yeardley: [00:09:47] How do you do that? If they swept all the evidence away in a U-Haul, what’s left for you?
Paul: [00:09:52] I sprayed this entire house with luminol looking for latent blood stains, because there’s no visible blood with what had been left inside the house. I had them bring the carpeting that they had ripped up and rolled up and put in the back of the U-Haul. So, I luminal the whole house, and there was a small amount of spatter that was found on the family room wall. And by spatter, it was just maybe 10 very tiny blood drops. But the way they were distributed, it was obvious, it was from a single event. It’s not like 10 different little drops of blood from 10 different, let’s say, blows. This was literally from possibly one blow, and it just settled on the wall. But that was the extent of the amount of blood spatter that was found inside this scene.
[00:10:42] I’m looking for proof that three bodies had been killed and dismembered inside this house, because that’s very important to establish. I’m not finding that evidence, but we get to a point where we dig up the sewer pipes from the house. So, we have a backhoe come in and dig up the sewer pipes. And I’m now looking through the sewer pipes for body parts, pieces of tissue, anything to suggest that parts of these victims had been washed down through the drains. I ultimately rinsed these sewer pipes, I put water through them and I had this screen material that I would catch any of the rinsing on and then just put that into the mason jar. The smell was horrid, as you could imagine, any sewer pipe would be, right?
Yeardley: [00:11:32] Sure. Did you ever find any bits and pieces of people in the pipe?
Paul: [00:11:36] No.
Yeardley: [00:11:38] You have a disgusting job, Paul Holes. Of course, people like me always want to know why human beings do these horrible things to other human beings. So, as you’re putting this case together, I have to ask, “Did you ever find out what Glenn Helzer’s motive was?”
Paul: [00:11:57] It turns out Glenn Helzer, he had a vision to have his own cult, in essence, called the Children of Thunder. Glenn Helzer was born and raised Mormon, no longer practicing, but really wanted to overthrow the Mormon Church with his own religious philosophy, his own group, but he needed to be able to finance this. So, he developed a scheme in which he knew his clients, the Stinemans. He had their bank account information, he knew exactly how much money they had, and he thought that that would be a way to start this cult.
Dave: [00:12:43] When you mentioned this case a few days ago, I was on the plane actually researching this. In reading up on this case, you learn that Glenn was excommunicated from the Mormon church due to drug use. And his idea is, “I’m the new prophet. I can run this organization better, basically, and I’m going to start my own cult called the Children of Thunder.”
Paul: [00:13:07] Right. So, Glenn Helzer concocts this scheme with his brother, Justin, and with Justin’s girlfriend, Dawn. Glenn, Justin, and Dawn have a scheme to abduct the Stinemans. Glenn starts a relationship with Selina Bishop and has her open an account in her name. So, the intent was they were going to rob the Stinemans and put that money in Selina’s bank account, and then that would be obviously transferred somewhere else, but in essence trying to launder the money.
Dave: [00:13:41] There’s not enough separation there between Selina creating this bank account and the Stinemans and the Helzer brothers.
Paul: [00:13:50] Right. It’s a very poorly concocted way to do it. They thought they were criminal masterminds. They just knew enough to be dangerous. Once they abduct the Stinemans, they do bring them back to the house.
Yeardley: [00:14:08] And who’s in on this abduction? It’s Glenn, Justin, and Dawn?
Paul: [00:14:12] And Dawn. Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:14:13] They’re all partaking.
Paul: [00:14:14] And I don’t know who physically grabbed them, but they’re all involved in this are all complicit in the homicides. So, the Stinemans are kept alive for a period of time. In fact, they tried to kill them using drugs and that didn’t work.
Yeardley: [00:14:31] What sort of drugs are they using on the Stinemans to try to kill them first? Illicit drugs like heroin?
Dave: [00:14:36] It was Rohypnol.
Paul: [00:14:37] Yeah, that’s right. It was Rohypnol.
Yeardley: [00:14:39] Is that the date-rape drug?
Paul: [00:14:41] That is, but it didn’t work.
Yeardley: [00:14:43] Would it ever work?
Paul: [00:14:45] Oh, sure. You most certainly can overdose on Rohypnol. The Stinemans were unconscious for a period of time.
Yeardley: [00:14:50] When they were given the Rohypnol?
Paul: [00:14:52] Yeah. But then they woke up, they were very ill. One of them was vomiting as a result, and then that’s when they had to turn to the bludgeoning in order to kill them. So, they bludgeoned all three, but they also cut Annette’s throat after she woke up after being hit in the head.
Yeardley: [00:15:10] God.
Paul: [00:15:11] Also, Glenn, Justin, and Dawn bought three Rottweiler dog, these big dogs, and their original plan was to feed the body parts to these dogs.
Yeardley: [00:15:22] Oh my–
Paul: [00:15:23] So, they ultimately bludgeoned them, then cut them up, cut the bodies up using power tools. And Selina, she was just being used to set up this account. So, once she was no longer needed, she is killed inside this house. And that tiny bit of spatter I talked about on that wall, that was her blood that was found. So, that was from one of the blows that had been used to kill her. And so, now you have three bodies that have been killed in this house. They’re being dismembered with power tools. So, you’d think there would be a ton of blood that is being spattered and sprayed as a result of these tools being used, but I’m not finding that. And didn’t learn until later that in their bathroom, Glenn, and Justin, and Dawn, they basically put plastic everywhere inside the bathroom.
Yeardley: [00:16:21] Like Dexter.
Paul: [00:16:23] Right. And then that’s where the dismemberment occurred. They went and bought these duffel bags, scrambled the body parts up to further confuse when they’re found, “Well, hold on, who are these people?” But they weren’t expecting these duffel bags to be found. They remove the upper and lower jaws from each of the victims and crunch up the teeth, thinking, “Okay, we’re going to prevent identification.” But then they also put the teeth in with the rest of the body. So, now that’s not how you do it, right? You don’t want the teeth found with the body, if you’re trying to prevent identification.
Yeardley: [00:17:02] How mangled are the jaws and teeth that Glenn, Justin, and Dawn smash up from the Stinemans, from Selina? Yes, they put them back in the duffel bags, but if they’re dust, I would think they weren’t that– you still couldn’t use them to identify them by dental records.
Paul: [00:17:18] No, this wasn’t an act of where they’re crushing the teeth. This was an act of removing the jaws.
Paul: [00:17:25] The teeth are left in the jaws.
Yeardley: [00:17:26] Oh.
Paul: [00:17:27] And then the jaws are broken up. Some of the victims’ jaws were more broken than others, but in essence, this was very easy for an odontologist to take a look, if we had to go down that route in order to identify whose teeth they were.
Yeardley: [00:17:42] Right. You could still fit those broken pieces together like a puzzle.
Paul: [00:17:45] Yes. The purpose to do this is to prevent identification, but then they put the jaws back in the duffel bags that float up with the body parts. So, they thought just enough, but didn’t carry it outright.
Yeardley: [00:18:02] Right. They, boy, not the brightest pennies in the roll.
Paul: [00:18:05] Yeah. So, they use walking pavers from around the house and other rocks from around the house to weigh each of the duffel bags. So, here, you start taking a look at, “How do I associate these duffel bags with the house?” Well, now they’re just adding more evidence that just piles on, it just starts stacking up in terms of, it’s obvious where these came from. Once you see the paver out of the duffel bag, it matches this paved path in the backyard. Then they use a knife, and they stab these duffel bags to prevent the gases from building up. So, you think, “Okay, they’re thinking pretty good.” They rent jet skis in their own name, tow the jet skis up to Sacramento County delta area, take the jet skis out with the duffel bags, and start just scattering the duffel bags over a course of a fairly large distance.
Yeardley: [00:18:56] How deep is that river?
Paul: [00:18:58] I believe the Sacramento River is typically going to be anywhere from 10ft to 20ft.
Yeardley: [00:19:04] So, not that deep if you’re trying to dispose of a body.
Paul: [00:19:06] Right. But with everything they tried to do to get rid of these bodies, they still floated. Once the Stinemans and Selina’s bodies were found in the duffel bags, now light bulbs are going off, both in Marin County and in Contra Costa County. “Oh, you know, we’ve got this massive thing going on with the Helzer brothers.”
Paul: [00:19:45] So, I’ve done my job at the house. So, I’m now floating around. I actually went up with the head of Concord CSI at the time and went around with Sac sheriff’s Marine patrol to help document the locations of where the duffel bags came up, and looking for other evidence that might be associated with the homicide. So, the scene out on the waterways where the duffel bags had gone, that was done. Then we get a report of human remains being found near the Helzer house. So now I’m going back, “I don’t know, do we have another victim that we don’t know about?” We get out to this location, that’s a few blocks away from where the murders had happened.
Yeardley: [00:20:30] So, a few blocks away from Glenn Helzer’s house where Stineman and Selina were killed?
Paul: [00:20:36] Correct. I’m talking to the lead dog handler. He’s got decomp dogs that he’s run and they had hit on this spot. The dog handler is handing me what he thought is a human skull. I’m looking at it and I’m like, “Oh, this doesn’t look right.” It’s in bad shape. There’s a lot of decomposing tissue on it. So, we start digging and plastic bags are found where the dog hit. And so, now getting, “Uh-oh, what do we have here?” I had an assistant with me, a junior criminalist with me, and I was like, “That’s your job. You’re the one who’s going to be doing this, right?”
Yeardley: [00:21:15] Opening those bags?
Paul: [00:21:16] Yes. “It’s the rookie job. That’s yours.” At one point, he’s dry heaving. It smells so bad. The dog handler had been telling me, “My dogs will only hit. They’re trained on human decomp, not on anything else. So, I’m confident this is human.” And now, we get the bag open enough, and the remains are from a very, very large fish.
Yeardley: [00:21:40] [gasps] Really? I have so many questions. The first one is, how does a cadaver dog mistake a dead fish for a dead human? And also, visually, how do you think that even a badly decomposed fish head resembles a human skull? Because the guy with the cadaver dog handed you this mucky gooey mass of yuck and said, “I think it’s a human skull.”
Paul: [00:22:10] [laughs]
Yeardley: [00:22:10] How?
Paul: [00:22:11] I don’t know.
Yeardley: [00:22:13] How weird that you would put a fish in a bag and then bury that?
Paul: [00:22:18] Yeah, it’s just a fisherman who caught a big fish and decided, “I’m going to get rid of these.” There may have been an issue with licensing. Just didn’t want this fish to be found out and just dumped it.
Dave: [00:22:32] The type of fish, red herring?
Yeardley: [00:22:35] Oh, boy.
Dave: [00:22:36] Sorry. I’m done.
Paul: [00:22:37] Good God.[laughter]
Paul: [00:22:42] So, this is how this is going to go, right? [laughs]
Yeardley: [00:22:43] Yeah.Welcome to the team. [laughs]
Dave: [00:22:47] I had the shot. There was no danger. So, I took it.
Yeardley: [00:22:50] [laughs] The fish is not buried on Helzer’s property, just nearby?
Paul: [00:22:56] Right. Doing due diligence, they were running dogs and ran across this fish. And so, now time and effort was needed in order to determine, “Is this something that we have to pay attention to or not?” So, satisfied that the fish is unrelated to the case. I’m back at the house, the scene, and there’s still some processing that I wasn’t directly involved with going on, but I get a call from the other sheriff’s office commander, and he’s saying, “I hear you have a problem with my guy that’s out there.”
Yeardley: [00:23:28] Oh, his crime scene investigator?
Paul: [00:23:30] Yeah. And this commander, he’s not happy with me, because I, of course, was saying to my agency’s prosecutors, “There’s issues with the way the scene is being handled.” Well, they talked to the sheriff’s office. I became a Division Commander with my sheriff’s office. I would never call a subordinate to another agency directly and give them a verbal lashing about whatever that person– There’s a chain of command. You talk to your equivalent rank in the other department. I was pretty established, like, here, this is in 2000. So, I’d been on the job for 10 years, but I’m just line staff. So, when a Commander calls you, that’s the, “Oh, shit.” And he says, “Well, I just think it’s a difference in style.” But it’s not a difference in style. There are right ways and wrong ways, and you don’t package up a crime scene and put it in the back of a U-Haul. [laughs]
Yeardley: [00:24:24] Even I know that.
Dave: [00:24:25] This U-Haul, they just rent it that day? Does it belong to the sheriff’s office? Is it decontaminated in between cases? All these controls that you have to build in that makes this a defensible crime scene investigation once it goes to trial.
Paul: [00:24:40] Right. And all the furniture out of this living room was collected. Sofa, chair.
Yeardley: [00:24:47] So, the sofa and the chair from the murder house is collected.
Paul: [00:24:51] Correct. Fortunately, Concord was able to get all of that furniture over to their property room. And then after the fact, I went out and I did full screening on all these items just to see was there anything that I could find to support the acts of violence occurring inside that house. There was nothing found there. So, I could at least check that box. But it’s not the way to do it. You need to be processing this evidence, ideally the way it was left when the offender left that location.
Dave: [00:25:20] So, really, almost all of the violence occurs in this bathroom that’s already been prepared with plastic tarps to control that environment.
Paul: [00:25:30] Right. They took time to try to dispose of these bodies. They think that they’re going to get away with this scheme and get this cult going.
Yeardley: [00:25:42] And how do they get the money from the Stinemans? Do they get the Stinemans to sign over their funds?
Paul: [00:25:49] He made them write checks. And so, they wrote checks, signed the checks.
Yeardley: [00:25:54] How much money were they after here?
Paul: [00:25:56] They got $100,000. And I think that was across two checks.
Dan: [00:26:00] Checks like that trigger actions from the bank and the IRS though.
Paul: [00:26:06] Absolutely. After killing the Stinemans and Selina, Glenn, Justin, and Dawn, they go up to a bank. Dawn puts on a costume, and she’s in a wheelchair and is rolling up to the teller in order to be able to do this deposit of the Stineman’s money. So, again, they are making themselves stick out. The teller goes, “I remember, this was so weird.” So, we got video surveillance from the bank and we’re able to find the exact moment in which Dawn comes rolling in to deposit the money. So, the case is just stacking up. And back in the lab, these three victims, the Stinemans and Selina’s jaws have been removed from the skull. And I was like, “How did they do that? The way it looked, it almost looked like explosives had been placed inside the mouth and blown off the lower part of the faces.
Yeardley: [00:27:05] Oh, my God, because they were so badly damaged?
Paul: [00:27:08] Yes. So, now, I get their skulls. An anthropologist had cleaned the tissue off, and I’m now dealing with each of these victims’ heads, in essence, and reconstructing the lower jaws trying to figure out what they did. I did find some tool marks that looked like they took the equivalent of a hammer and screwdriver, and they’re cutting through the soft tissue with a knife, and then they’re literally using a hammer and screwdriver or a chisel to try to break the jaws up, all to try to prevent identification, but then they put it in the duffel bags with the other body parts.
Yeardley: [00:27:43] I mean, it’s like putting an ID tag in with the item you’re trying to conceal.
Paul: [00:27:49] Yes.
Dave: [00:27:50] And in these duffel bags that are found, the limbs are separated from the body in areas that you would expect limbs to be separated from the body, shoulders, hips, etc?
Paul: [00:28:01] Generally, yes. The way the bodies are dismembered is, in essence, the easy way to do it. This is not a case where somebody who’s looking at these dismembered remains would go, “This person must be a medical person or a surgeon.” No, there’s no skill here at all.
Dave: [00:28:20] Okay.
Yeardley: [00:28:21] Did you ever end up figuring out what Glenn’s motive was for the double homicide he committed in Marin County?
Paul: [00:28:28] The double homicide, it turns out that Glenn Helzer realized that Selina’s mom had seen him and decided, “I also need to eliminate the mom as a witness.”
Yeardley: [00:28:41] Oh, God.
Paul: [00:28:42] So, he goes up with a gun to Marin middle of the night, and goes inside mom’s house, and mom’s boyfriend just happened to be there, so he kills both of them.
Dave: [00:28:52] And the mother’s only mistake is that she met Glenn one time.
Paul: [00:28:58] Basically, yes. And her boyfriend just happened to be over. The intent wasn’t to kill him. I don’t think he ever was a witness he just happened to be at the house at the time Glenn came in. So, that’s where now you have that double homicide, you have this horrific triple homicide with dismembered bodies, all to get money to start a cult.
Yeardley: [00:29:20] It’s a shocking crime spree. So, Helzer is obviously arrested, but I heard you guys mumbling before we started recording today. There’s a story about his arrest, isn’t there?
Paul: [00:29:35] Yes. Glenn Helzer had been placed in the back of a patrol car, and then left alone, and he was able to squirrel his way out.
Yeardley: [00:29:44] Wait, what?
Dave: [00:29:46] Yeah, in the article, I read about this case. It said, “Glenn kicks out the back window of the patrol car and just takes off running.” The cops go back to the car and they’re like, “Where’d the window go and where do the guy who was inside the back seat go?”
Yeardley: [00:30:01] So, Glenn kicked out the back window?
Paul: [00:30:03] Right. I wasn’t there to see the patrol car and its condition, but I think there was some policies that weren’t followed in terms of how to maintain control over somebody you’ve just arrested.
Yeardley: [00:30:15] Right.[laughter]
Dave: [00:30:17] You just can’t take your eyes off people in these circumstances.
Dan: [00:30:21] Somebody at least has to have eyes on him. You can seat them in the patrol car, but you can’t leave.
Paul: [00:30:27] It just blew me away that you’d lose control over this suspect. This guy is responsible for five homicides at this point.
Dave: [00:30:36] He’s going to kill anybody in his way.
Paul: [00:30:38] For sure.
Paul: [00:30:55] So, there’s a huge man hunt now for this guy responsible for five homicides. Glenn gets out and gets into another house. At the time he was arrested, he had long hair. So, he very roughly and crudely cuts his ponytail off to try to change his appearance, but then ultimately is caught before he gets too far away, and thank God. So, Glenn, Justin, and Dawn are all arrested and charged. They consolidate all the homicides in Contra Costa County. So, now we have five murder charges on all three. About a month after the homicides, I went out there to basically get head hair standards in order to help sort through what hair we’re finding with the bodies as well as inside the house.
[00:31:45] To see this, and you guys have seen this, where you’re dealing with somebody who is not completely with it. You look at Glenn Helzer, and he just was off. Each of their attorneys were present when I collected the head hair standards, and then we also took their fingerprints at this point in time for latent print comparison purposes, so we can get the palm aspect.
Yeardley: [00:32:09] From Dawn, and Justin, and Glenn?
Paul: [00:32:11] All three of them, yes. But Glenn is sitting there, and his attorney because I go, “I can pull your hair, you can pull your hair.” And Glenn’s just gently trying to tug on his hair and I was like, “Well, that’s not going to work, if you’re not going to let me do it.” And so, his female attorney, decides, “I will collect your hair and I’ll be gentle, Glenn.” So, as she’s sitting there pulling his head hair standards, and I’m collecting them in a paper bindle, he all of a sudden just goes boom and jumps, with the intent to startle everybody, and then he just starts chuckling.
Dan: [00:32:51] Mr. Helzer gets off on people being afraid of him.
Paul: [00:32:54] Right. But they all get convicted. Glenn and Justin are sentenced to death, and Dawn actually takes a plea deal in exchange for her testimony.
Yeardley: [00:33:05] Does she deny having any actual physical part of these murders and this kidnapping she just happened to be along for the ride?
Paul: [00:33:12] In essence, yes. That’s what her testimony was all about. She basically talks about how the scheme unfolded, her role in it, how they really struggled to kill the Stinemans with the drugs, and then had to resort to using a hammer to bludgeon them. So, she was important to fill in details that the evidence couldn’t let us know.
Yeardley: [00:33:39] Were Glenn, and Justin, and Dawn already like a posse that hung out together? How’d they meet?
Paul: [00:33:45] Glenn and Justin met Dawn in this ironic situation. They were attending a murder mystery dinner in Walnut Creek.
Yeardley: [00:33:54] Shut up.
Paul: [00:33:55] I believe that was hosted by the Mormon congregation.
Yeardley: [00:33:58] Irony upon irony.
Dave: [00:34:00] I bet they didn’t solve it.[laughter]
Paul: [00:34:04] But now, Glenn and Justin are on death row. Glenn’s still alive. Justin tries to commit suicide by shoving pens into both eyes.
Yeardley: [00:34:15] Like ink pens?
Paul: [00:34:17] Like ink pens into both eyes.
Yeardley: [00:34:19] Really?
Paul: [00:34:20] He doesn’t die, but he’s blind. He wasn’t poking his eyeballs out. He was trying to drive the pens into the back of his brain.
Yeardley: [00:34:28] Oh.
Paul: [00:34:29] Who would think of doing it that way, right?
Yeardley: [00:34:30] Right.
Paul: [00:34:32] A few years later, Justin hung himself.
Yeardley: [00:34:35] So, Justin is dead by his own hand in prison?
Paul: [00:34:40] Yes.
Yeardley: [00:34:41] So, Glenn is still in prison on death row with no possibility of parole?
Paul: [00:34:46] That is correct.
Yeardley: [00:34:47] Dawn took a plea deal. Do you know what the parameters of that deal were?
Paul: [00:34:52] Dawn received, I believe it was 38 years to life.
Yeardley: [00:34:57] Paul, how old are Glenn, Dawn, and Justin when they commit these five murders?
Paul: [00:35:02] They were in their early 30s.
Yeardley: [00:35:04] Okay. That’s young.
Dave: [00:35:06] Just for clarification. It was Glenn is the ringleader of this trio?
Paul: [00:35:10] Yeah, there’s no question. Glenn is alpha in this. Justin was his patsy brother, just followed along and very susceptible to being influenced. These guys that are leading cults, they have to have that ability to get people to follow them.
Yeardley: [00:35:29] Right.
Paul: [00:35:29] And Glenn definitely had that personality to him.
Yeardley: [00:35:33] What’s in this scheme for Justin? Maybe he get a little cash on the side, but if he’s highly susceptible and his brother says, “This is what we’re doing,” then maybe that’s enough.
Dave: [00:35:44] Glenn had done a very good job of working on his brother to get him to buy into the new ideology, and that Glenn is running the show and his brother is going to basically like his top hand. And then you have Dawn who also buys into all of this, and Selina who buys into all this. However, Selina in Glenn’s eyes is a huge liability. Selina introduces her mother to her boyfriend, and now you have three people that died, and they were just used.
Paul: [00:36:16] Yeah. All of them, truly innocent victims in this. Selina, she didn’t know what all was going to transpire. She just was being used by Glenn. So, five innocent people lost their lives, families destroyed, and it was all because you had a guy who really just had a cracked view of the world.
Dave: [00:36:38] I think about fly on the wall type scenarios. In this bathroom as this dismemberment is occurring, what that scene looks like. And they’re animals.
Paul: [00:36:51] Yeah, absolutely. Could you imagine putting, like myself in the offender’s mind and physically experiencing what that offender must be experiencing while he’s got decapitated heads and removing the teeth? Imagine being Glenn or Justin who’s chiseling the teeth out of these heads, cutting the bodies up, and what sensations they have as they’re doing that? But also, beyond the opposite end, what did Selina experience right before, she’s now realizing, “They’re going to kill me too?”
Dave: [00:37:26] Yeah, the fear. Oh, my God.
Paul: [00:37:29] Absolutely.
Yeardley: [00:37:31] Do you believe, let’s say, they hadn’t caught the Helzers, do you think that there would have been more murders?
Paul: [00:37:37] I believe there would have been more homicides, but not because this was a fantasy motivated predator. The homicides would have occurred in order to keep the philosophy on point. So, if somebody were to derail the formation or the success of what Glenn wanted to establish, I believe he would have killed them in order to maintain his vision. He killed five people just to try to get money to set this thing up. He’s not going to shy away from killing people in the future.
Dave: [00:38:18] In reading the article to prepare for this recording, I read that the Helzers put together a list and the Stinemans were listed second on the list. There was actually victims listed before the Stinemans, but they weren’t home when the Helzers came calling.
Yeardley: [00:38:34] And these were all people that the Helzers thought, “Oh, we should knock them off too and steal their money.”
Paul: [00:38:38] Yeah, I believe they were all clients of Glenn at the time he was a stockbroker. If they had succeeded with the Stinemans, then they probably would have continued down that list.
Yeardley: [00:38:48] Right. So, this is a pretty horrific crime, but if you had already been working for a decade given the kind of cases that you had investigated, you’ve already seen a lot. What about this case stands out for you?
Paul: [00:39:04] Well, I think the brutality of what happened to the Stinemans and to Selina, that really stands out. Here, you have somebody who just has a life philosophy and wants to pursue it, and now he’s willing to go to that level to accomplish it. I do think that this case underscores the trauma that individuals that are working the case can experience and do experience, because the criminalists that went up to Sacramento County to document all the body parts and the autopsy that the pathologist was doing, when he came back, he just told me, “Paul, that was effed up.” At that point in time, that was a cry for help-
Yeardley: [00:39:57] From him?
Paul: [00:39:57] -from him.
Yeardley: [00:39:58] Ah.
Paul: [00:40:00] I didn’t recognize it at that point in my career, but I’m sure that experience has stuck with him to this day.
Yeardley: [00:40:09] Knowing what I know, at least, from Dan and Dave, the mere admission that putting a label on a case like that was fucked up is huge. Those thoughts might roam around your heads far more often than you are willing to articulate to somebody other than, let’s say, your spouse or your partner, who isn’t probably going to divulge that.
Paul: [00:40:34] Absolutely, because you can’t show weakness. Not only on the peace officer side and that culture, but also within the crime scene world, you need to be able to show that, “I can handle anything and I have handled anything,” to be able to go, “Ooh,” that really messed with me.
Yeardley: [00:40:57] It affected me is a massive admission.
Paul: [00:40:59] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:41:00] How do you go home and be a husband, a father, a friend? I can’t.
Paul: [00:41:08] No, it does impact family life, for sure.
Yeardley: [00:41:12] I’ve said it so many times on this podcast, but honestly, the job you all have, it occurs to me more and more with each story that you tell, it’s just not natural and it really takes a certain kind of person who won’t give up, who’s absolutely determined that justice must be served to do the kinds of things that you guys do. It’s got to be why you say it’s a calling and not just a job. I, for one, am so grateful, you never give up.
Paul: [00:41:46] I appreciate it.
Dave: [00:41:48] Thanks, Paul.
Dan: [00:41:48] Good job.
Yeardley: [00:41:49] Thank you.
[00:41:54] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and me, Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by detectives Dan and Dave. Our production manager is Logan Heftel. Our senior editor is Soren Begin, and our editor is Christina Bracamontes. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our social media is run by the one and only, Monika Scott. Our music is composed by John Forest, and our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
Dan: [00:42:25] If you like what you hear and want to stay up to date with the show, visit us on our website at smalltowndicks.com.
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Yeardley: [00:43:10] That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to small towns across the country-
Dan: [00:43:16] -in search of the finest-
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Dan: [00:43:18] -true crime cases told as always, by the detectives who investigated them.
Dave: [00:43:23] So, thanks for listening, Small Town Fam.
Yeardley: [00:43:25] Nobody’s better than you.
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