Mind Over Murder (2022) s01e04 Episode Script

Episode 4

I moved to Beatrice in 1995.
Shortly after we moved here,
I applied here as a job
as a dispatcher.
When I was dispatching,
I found that I always wanted
to know what was going on
right away with the officers,
so I was constantly asking them
what's going on
or what happened?
I figured there was probably
only one way
to get the answers
quick enough
that I just probably
should go do it myself.
So that's why I decided
to become an officer.
There's a saying
that I had heard
when I first started
And the saying is,
"What do you think?
What do you know?
What can you prove?"
And I always thought if
I followed those three things,
that was how I wanted
to work my career.
Actually, at the time,
the first people
that me
and my then-husband met
were Burt Searcey
and his wife Cindy.
I learned
that Burt was responsible
for solving
the Helen Wilson case,
and I looked up to him.
I thought, you know,
what a great job
to solve something like that.
Tina Vath?
I knew her for many years.
When her and her boyfriend
at the time moved into town,
they become real good,
close friends of mine.
They were new to town,
and they had some kids,
and they didn't know anyone,
and we hit it off.
Almost everybody that I knew
knew Burt.
He was raised in the area.
He's lived here his whole life.
You could walk
into the local restaurant
for dinner on Friday night,
and Burt was there.
I would guess half
the restaurant would go up
and tell him hi.
The whole community
was proud of Burt
for solving this case.
Tina was always curious
about the Beatrice Six case.
It's like she wanted to hear it
over and over again.
And then she became
an investigator.
Late 2007, Randy Ritnour,
the county attorney,
came into my office
and let me know that the DNA
from the Helen Wilson
sexual assault
was not Joseph White
or Tom Winslow.
It was very clear to me
that we had a huge problem
with this case.
And then,
Tina was investigating Burt.
When we found out
that the DNA didn't match
Joe White, Tom Winslow,
or James Dean,
the attorney general's office
that we just needed people
who weren't really familiar
with the case
but had
investigative experience
that could look at the case
with fresh eyes
and work the case
as if it just happened.
And so we put together
the state patrol.
We had some representatives
from the sheriff's office,
from the police department.
We were gonna do
everything we could
to either, one,
reconvict the six,
or get some type of answers
on why
this DNA's not matching up.
We then got a lot
of the physical evidence out
and did an inventory,
basically, of what we had.
As part of the task force,
we had the benefit
of the original
photographic evidence,
the video evidence,
and the lists
of close to 100 people
that they had interviewed
and taken samples from.
All of the pictures
in the case,
I actually printed out
and stapled to the wall.
So that way when you walked
into this room,
it almost could feel like
you were walking
into the crime scene.
We ended up calling it
the war room.
We literally went around
looking at the photographic
evidence of the crime.
Some of the first things
that stood out to me
was the trial testimony
wasn't matching up
to the crime scene.
At the trial, they testified
that they were going
to rob this woman.
The apartment
wasn't ransacked, though.
The only that was knocked over
was a footstool.
You get six people
buffaloing through a house,
and only one footstool's
Nothing else is torn up
in the place.
During the investigation,
we discovered that
there was about $1,200 cash
found in the apartment.
Robbery clearly wasn't
the motive.
It was clear this was
a sexually-motivated crime.
The testimony was
that JoAnn Taylor
held a pillow over her face
so that Ms. Wilson
didn't have to look
at the face of the person
who was raping her.
She wouldn't have been able
to see anything anyway
because of the scarf that was
wrapped around her face.
There was this theory that
there was six coffee cups
and that somebody
had made coffee.
There is a coffee mug on top
of the counter,
but in the sink there's
a few drinking glasses.
There's what looks like
a plastic cup.
But I don't know
of any coffee mugs
anywhere else
in the apartment.
I thought of Burt as somebody
that would have caught
some of these discrepancies.
And then we discovered that
in 1989, when Burt Searcey
and the sheriff's office
took over the investigation,
from the sheriff's office
actually came over
and read the case file.
With respect to the
Gage County sheriff's office
and the Beatrice
Police Department,
historically, there has been
a serious schism
between the two.
In this particular case,
Burt Searcey left
the police department
under a cloud,
and then he went off
to be a hog farmer.
After this murder occurred,
he actually contacted
the family himself
and told them that he
was gonna solve this crime.
Then he went around on his own
asking people all sorts
of questions about this crime.
The police department
was very upset
that he was going around
as a private citizen
claiming to be
investigating this case
when he had absolutely
no authority to be doing it.
And in fact,
the police department
didn't think he was that good
of an investigator,
so officers were instructed
not to cooperate
with Burt Searcey.
So there was that stress
and that tension.
Then when Burt Searcey
got himself hired
for the sheriff's office,
they essentially
hijacked the case,
so to speak,
and pursued
their own investigation.
The investigation
the sheriff's office did
was based
on confidential informants,
and they built the entire case
based on that.
Lisa Podendorf was the one
who really set this case
in motion.
JoAnn Taylor told me that
she knew what had happened.
She had told Burt
about the conversation
before school.
JoAnn Taylor said
her and Joseph White
just killed a woman
in that apartment building.
She's says that's why
all the cop cars are there.
Do you remember the approximate
time that JoAnn spoke to you?
Yes. 7:30 in the morning.
We later discovered that
that conversation can't be true
because the crime
wasn't even called in
till about 9:30.
So there was no police cars
at 7:30 in the morning.
She told me that they
suffocated her with a pillow.
that Lisa Podendorf
told Burt was in the media.
And she'd been able to,
hands tied behind her back
on the living room floor,
beside a footstool
that would be tipped over.
So it was information
that was available to anybody.
After going through
police reports,
we found that Lisa and JoAnn Taylor
were not friends.
They didn't like each other.
There was some actual
physical altercations
between the two.
As I'm looking at this,
I'm thinking,
why would JoAnn Taylor
even tell Lisa
such an important thing
as a murder?
So in 2008,
I interviewed Lisa Podendorf.
First of all, do you have any idea what
time it was when you saw this car?
- No.
It wasn't too dark.
sometime after 5 o'clock, I'm sure.
She was confronted
with the discrepancies
in the time
and just didn't have
an explanation for that.
I asked her
if she would be willing
to give a polygraph exam,
and she refused
and never talked to me again.
In fact, I went to her house,
and her husband kicked me
off their yard.
You were present
at the time it happened?
I was in the room.
When I started watching
the interviews,
I was in shock.
JoAnn Taylor's interview
I think
was one of the first ones
that I watched.
JoAnn, how did you get to the
location where this occurred?
Do you recall that?
The kid that was with Lobo had a car.
Do you recall what the car looked like?
It was light blue.
The car that
she describes being in
was completely wrong.
The building that I can
remember, that I see
is a light colored home.
Are you sure?
I can see the house as plain as day.
She describes
a one-story house,
which is completely opposite
of the crime scene,
which is a three-story
red brick building.
Would you like to stop and think
about some of this a little bit?
Take a little break?
- I think so.
- Okay.
We'll stop the tape.
Then the video shuts off
for a while,
and they take a break,
and then the video turns back on
and it's a completely
different description.
We're now resuming the videotaped
interview with JoAnn Taylor.
Okay, how would you categorize that car?
Brown and green.
The body was green, the roof was brown.
Now the car matches
Tom Winslow's car.
Do you recall what this building
may have been built out of?
Red brick.
Red brick.
Do you recall
It was an apartment.
And now she's describing
a brick building.
There was
quite a few things like that
that we were seeing
in the interview
that the statements
would change.
What did Mr. Winslow do?
Did you see him have sexual
intercourse with Mrs. Wilson?
Are you sure of that?
I'm gonna stop
the video for just a second
until we get a new tape. Okay?
We're now restarting the tape.
We had to stop the video.
You stated that Mr. Winslow
apparently raped Helen Wilson.
That's according to what you're
At that point, we began
to see what was going on.
Because essentially
what happened was,
in each and every video,
Burt Searcey fed them
key information about the case
during the interviews.
He didn't tell you if he
by normal vaginal
area or by rectum?
Did he make any comments
that way, that you recall?
I think he might have said
something about rectum.
That was one
of the most incompetent
I have ever come across.
To go ahead and give them
the information about the case,
and then ask them
what they know about the case.
I have the impression
in all of these interviews
that the suspects
were actually thinking,
"Once I've given him
the information they want,
I can go home."
But of course,
that's not what this was about.
This was
a murder investigation,
and if they were admitting
to being involved
in the crime,
they weren't going anywhere.
With Winslow,
in his interrogation,
there's a second video.
Okay, Tom.
The reason why I'm here
is at your request.
In the second video,
he asked Burt Searcey
to talk to him
because he needed to tell him
something more,
and Winslow then recants.
The part that I said I knew,
that was not true.
Well, I don't believe that right now.
You're lying.
I've got people arrested that are sitting
here telling me exactly what happened.
And that's why they're arrested,
they've confessed.
- Bullshit, Tom!
Burt Searcey literally
went off on a tirade,
and he just had
a temper tantrum.
- I'm not going to listen to this shit.
- Okay.
I'll go back, because
I know I'm not lying!
- Well, something's wrong.
- I wasn't there!
He started screaming
at Winslow
and saying that he did it
and that, um,
that, well, you can see.
You can see in the tape
what he said.
I've got people telling me exactly
what you did to that woman.
You butt fucked her!
He didn't like the fact
that someone was now
screwing up his theory
of the case.
I'm telling you what everybody's
telling me, and their stories all jive.
Now, you see what the problem is, Tom?
I tell the truth.
I think Winslow
finally understood
that he was
in big trouble here,
that he was actually now
a murder suspect.
I'm not gonna do time, and maybe
death, for something I did not do!
- Tom, listen!
- No! I wouldn't lie!
I don't think the penny dropped
until after he was back
in his cell
and he understood
just what he'd done.
When I looked
at those interviews,
I just didn't put
a whole lot of weight
into the statements
that they gave
of all the inconsistencies.
And you didn't know
what to believe
or what was actually
the truth.
We needed to look
at some more evidence
and submit some more evidence
to the lab
for some further testing.
We pulled out a total
of another 30-plus items.
We went all that off,
and we waited.
Within a few weeks,
we were starting
to get the evidence back.
In each and every case,
it came back showing DNA
and one unknown male.
None of the six people's DNA
was in any of the objects.
Not one of those six people
leave one shred of DNA.
Not a single hair fiber.
Not a drop of blood, nothing.
No DNA at all.
They clearly lied
on the stand.
They testified
that Kathy Gonzalez
had been hit in the nose
and left blood.
They also testified
that some of their blood
was on the wall in the bedroom.
That blood is a mixture
of two blood types.
Helen Wilson was identified
as one blood type,
and then
this single male DNA profile.
We just flat
had the wrong people.
Just completely wrong.
And now we have people
who are sitting in prison
for a good part
of their lives already.
And we need to do something
about it.
Randy Ritnour calls and says,
"We think they got it wrong.
"All six of these people
are in prison,
and they shouldn't be."
There's no physical evidence
of the six being there.
We didn't expect that.
like, three of them were there,
and three of them
were innocent,
what I thought.
But didn't think
it was gonna be
all six of them were innocent.
When you're attorney general,
you get to make the call
on what you think
is right and wrong.
So we did a meeting
in my conference room
with the task force.
They walked through it.
The attorney general,
Jon Bruning, just said,
you know, "Let's just rip
the Band-Aid off."
Every day they're in prison
is a day
they shouldn't be in prison,
so I tell Ritnour,
let's fix it as fast as we can.
Deb Shelden, James Dean,
and Kathy Gonzalez
had already all served
their time in prison,
so there was nothing to do
with them at the moment.
Ada JoAnn Taylor, we moved
to try and get her parole.
Joseph White,
the court ordered a retrial,
so at that point,
he was released.
What are you going to do?
Go home.
Winslow was also released.
Thomas Winslow
went to prison
as a 23-year-old.
He's 42 now.
So what are you
going to do now?
What are you going to do next?
just try to put my life
back together.
That's what I'm going to do.
To release these people
so fast
and just throw the case
To me, was a kick in the teeth.
What could I do?
I mean, what am I gonna do?
Tina Vath is the one
that carried out,
you know, the task force.
I knew her for many years,
and nothing was really
discussed with me.
That hurt.
Tina always said
that she believed Burt
and that they deserve to be
in prison.
She said it.
But then suddenly she didn't
believe that anymore,
and my best friend is suddenly
not my best friend anymore.
She almost feels like
an enemy to me.
When the investigation
we just kinda quit
hanging out so much.
Even if it painted Burt
in a bad light,
it was just the investigation
that had to be done.
So about that time is when
I just quit talking to him.
I just had to do my job.
She has her reasons,
but it had
some really big consequences
that she may not know ever.
The newspapers were reporting
that Burt was the one
that mishandled this case,
and he was incompetent.
Of course, there was Facebook,
and people started writing
things on Facebook,
and it became
a personal attack.
Someone would post
Burt's location and say,
"Well, if you wanna
go do something about it,
he's at the flower shop."
And for me,
reading that was terrifying.
Criticism has been heaped
on a string of interrogations
led by investigator
Burdette Searcey.
Burt Searcey
helped put the Beatrice Six
behind bars
using unorthodox tactics,
brutal interrogation methods,
and even brainwashing.
Five of them were railroaded
into admitting guilt
and incriminating the others.
We were frankly
all a little embarrassed.
I mean, all of us
are sad for the day
when our brethren
haven't done it right.
I don't think I'm a bad guy.
I'm trying to be portrayed
as the bad guy, but I'm not.
Do you think
you did anything wrong?
Absolutely not.
Do you think you did
anything unethical?
No, ma'am.
- Can you sleep at night?
- Yes, ma'am.
I can weather the storm.
I'm like a duck, you know?
Puff up, let the water run off.
I knew it wasn't true,
what ain't true can't hurt you.
I mean, it might hurt somebody.
It doesn't hurt me.
I found out
through the news.
We believed one thing
for so long,
and then come have somebody
tell you something different?
Did a lot of press come here?
There was a lot
of newspapers,
my mom didn't want
to talk to anybody.
When they come to me,
I would say no.
"Lincoln Journal Star,"
a couple reporters
called and said
that they wanted to do a story
about my grandmother.
And she was hesitant at first,
I talked her into it.
It was the wrong decision.
How come?
Because it wasn't
about my grandma at all.
It was about Beatrice Six,
and that torn my mom up.
And it was because of me.
There was a lot of articles
in, like, the wrongly convicted
part of it.
My grandma was a footnote.
It was the people convicted
of the Helen Wilson murder.
And it didn't really go into
who she was, who we were.
How's it going?
- Burt, we got a chair for you.
- All right.
This was the worst
miscarriage of justice
in the history
of the state of Nebraska.
And probably one of the worst
in the entire United States.
How did this happen?
How were six people convicted
for something they did not do?
There was zero
physical evidence
that any of those people
set foot in Helen's apartment.
I don't know
how six people
could be in there and not
leave a trace of evidence.
We all fit
in that apartment,
and there was how many of us?
And our traces
weren't there, either,
so that proves
absolutely nothing.
With the blessing
of the Wilson family,
Burt Searcey began
his own investigation.
I think
He tried to do his best.
But his best
wasn't good enough.
- Oh, Jesus, what a dick.
on the information from her,
but it was bad information.
The only thing I know
that I'll say,
I know I didn't do
anything wrong.
I know,
legally and technically,
I did it right.
And I know they were guilty.
And we believe in you.
We believe you.
You're listening
to 1450 AM
and 94.7 FM KWBE Beatrice.
One thing I'd like
how tough of a time
this has been for the family.
You want me to say my name?
I'm Jan Houseman,
Helen Wilson's daughter.
After going through the twenty years
that we thought this was taken care of,
and then finding out this, I'll tell you,
we all could not believe it.
We knew that these were
Just because their DNA wasn't there,
there's no saying they weren't there.
I question how through the case was
looked at before this all came about.
People around Beatrice, none of them
believe that these people weren't there.
They went in
front of a jury under oath.
They went in front of a judge.
They've sat for 20 years.
And all of a sudden now they say it,
because somebody else says it?
That just doesn't work.
They were using my mother's murder
as a stepping stone to politics.
After typing the dictations and
the interviews and all that,
to this day, I still believe it.
Beatrice Six are guilty
and were at that apartment.
They may not have raped her.
They were there.
People confessed
to this crime
and then later said
they were not involved?
You can threaten me
with a lot,
but if I didn't commit a crime,
I'm not gonna confess to it.
I think those six people did
what they were convicted of.
I truly do.
The fact that the Six
did not have type B nonsecretor
to me only means
that they didn't get cut
and didn't bleed there.
Many people in Beatrice
still believe
that the Six are guilty.
You gotta remember
that they spent 20 years
believing that these people
were guilty,
so it's hard to, you know,
turn that off.
After the Six were released,
we knew we had six people
who didn't do it
and another person
who did do it,
and we didn't know
who they were.
So our whole focus
for the task force changed.
We had to actually switch gears
and begin to look
for that other person.
We know that
all the pieces of evidence
that we've submitted,
and so far,
everything in the crime scene
points to one male individual.
And we have
a full DNA profile.
We just have to put a person
to the DNA profile.
We did go down
and interview James Dean.
- You must be James.
- I'm James.
J. Morrow, how you doing?
And you are?
Hi, I'm Tina Vath
with the Beatrice Police.
So this was 2008,
after we knew that the DNA
had excluded him.
We know that there was
another male that committed this crime.
And that's one of the reasons
why we're talking to you
is we need to find out
where we need to look.
Cliff Shelden was real close to kinda
everybody, if I remember right.
Cliff Shelden
was one of those that just,
his name kept coming up
in the investigation
with the Six.
The name of the person
that you were in love with.
Clifford Lee Shelden.
Clifford was the only one
that knew that I was related.
There was a lot of threats
coming out of Clifford's mouth.
Cliff Shelden, I thought he was involved.
- Do you still think that?
- I still think that.
My first guess
who done it was Cliff Shelden.
He came in to our little clan
thinking he was all that,
and he took over
Deb Shelden's life.
Deb was submissive,
so I think
that's probably why chose her.
She just did
whatever he wanted to do.
Anything Cliff said
is pretty much what happened.
Right before
we were all arrested,
Thomas Winslow
and Clifford Shelden
got in some trouble.
They went to rob this motel,
and they beat the guy
that worked behind the counter
to the point
where he's paralyzed now.
I really believe that day,
he would've killed him.
Without a second thought.
He just kept hitting him.
There was no reason.
He just kept hitting him.
I think if I would've tried
to stop Cliff,
I probably would've been
hit too.
There was no way I felt at
that time I could intervene.
We were arrested
for assault and robbery,
and by allowing
ourselves to be put
in that situation,
that's what led
to everything else, I think.
That's when Clifford said
to the police,
"Well, I can get you started on
who did this Beatrice murder,"
you know?
And ratted out his wife.
Deb Shelden.
If it would save his bacon,
he'd probably told them
his mom was there.
Clifford Shelden
was about Clifford Shelden.
He didn't give a fuck
about anybody else.
So that's the kind
of person he was.
Cliff Shelden
was actually cleared
because he said
he was in the hospital
the night of the homicide.
But he was still
very much involved
with everybody in these six.
So we just thought we wanted
to talk to him again.
Were you involved in the
assault or the rape of Mrs. Wilson?
No, I was not.
Okay, and you
were in the hospital?
- Yes I was.
- Okay.
I think, are we having a hard
time finding those medical records?
- I think so.
- Okay.
We're just having a hard
time finding those
or back up your story at all.
Just kind of go over, I guess,
what you know at this point now.
From what I'm following
on this DNA testing,
I don't believe it.
You don't believe the DNA?
my wife has never lied to me.
She said that she saw Joseph White
and Tom Winslow, with their clothes off,
raping this woman.
Cliff Shelden basically
kind of went through
what he said in 1989,
after we know that the Six,
you know, don't have anything
to do with it.
That seemed very odd to me.
volunteer to give us a DNA sample,
just a swab of your cheek.
- I won't have a problem with that.
- Okay.
Open up your mouth for me.
Alright, very good.
Back in '85,
the Beatrice police
interviewed numerous people
and collected blood, saliva,
and hair samples,
and had those analyzed.
There was probably 30
to 40 samples from everybody
who could've possibly been
a suspect.
So we had a list
of the suspects.
We just started going
down the list.
Either they were B positive,
or they just had something,
some relevance in the case
that we thought they needed
a second look.
Randy Emery was one
that we focused on right away.
He was in trouble
for a prior sexual assault.
He had a violent temper.
His family had made comments
that he could do something
like what was done
to Mrs. Wilson.
So he quickly became
kind of a top suspect
for us too.
Anthony Flowers, he actually
knew Kathy Gonzalez,
who lived
in the same building,
so he would've been familiar.
I believe he was in prison
for sexual assault.
That was a red flag for us.
Bruce Smith was another one
that, in '85,
he was
one of the top suspects.
We knew
that he was in the area
the night of the homicide.
And then
we were finding reports
about him being at a party
and a wallet being stolen,
and the wallet's found
just half a block
from Mrs. Wilson's apartment.
Bruce Smith then skipped town
right away.
All of them were eliminated
back in '85
as a suspect.
They brought the samples back
to the police department here,
and then
that's where they sat.
In 2008, we resubmitted
the samples to the lab
to test the actual DNA.
The results came back.
And this trickled in
over several weeks.
One day, one was excluded.
Then we hit the next person.
The DNA test excluded them
as well.
Eventually, the last ones
were Clifford Shelden
and Bruce Allen Smith.
And I remember
the lab calling me,
and I just about fell
out of my chair.
I said, are you sure?
And he says,
"I'm 100% positive."
I said, are you really sure?
He says, "I'm 100% positive."
Shelden was excluded,
but it came back
a perfect match
for Bruce Allen Smith.
All of the DNA in the whole
crime scene is his.
Then I found
the chief of police
and told him.
I says, I know who did it.
Yeah, so it was
a pretty exciting day
that we all found out
that it was Bruce Smith.
We had 40 pieces of DNA
preserved from the scene.
All of them were tested.
And they come back
with the test, they're like,
"It's Bruce Allen Smith."
When we went back
through the '85 case file,
we learned
that he had shown up in town
just a few days
before the homicide.
The night of February 5th,
Bruce Smith had some drinks
at a local bar
with a friend of his.
And then they did
go down to a party
about ten miles south
of Beatrice
with a couple girls
from the bar that night.
Bruce Smith gets
kicked out of the party
because he is threatening
to rape one of the girls.
He's pissed, and he's drunk,
and he tells everybody
at the party that
he's gonna get a piece of ass
one way or another.
Somebody gives him a ride
back to Beatrice.
He is literally dropped off
right at the crime scene.
It was -7 degrees out.
It was bitter, bitter cold.
Ms. Wilson's apartment,
the door
to her apartment building
would've been
the first open door
that Bruce Smith would've
come to that night.
In the early morning hours
the next day,
just a few blocks away,
a convenience store clerk
reported somebody stealing
potato chips.
She described this person
as somebody that looked
just like Bruce Smith
and noticed that he had scratches
up and down his arms.
There was blood on his arms.
Bruce Smith then got onto
a Greyhound bus
and headed back
to Oklahoma City.
The police department,
they did go down
to Oklahoma City.
Well, we made the trip
to Oklahoma,
I believe about ten days
10, 11 days before
we were able to get down
and try to establish contact
with him.
They were able
to get his blood,
and they had it tested
down in Oklahoma City
at their crime lab.
They were told that he was
a blood type B secretor,
and they were looking
for a type B nonsecretor.
They ruled him out.
And that's where this thing
went wildly wrong.
They spent a combined
52 years in prison
for crimes they did not commit.
The common denominator,
fired Oklahoma police chemist
Joyce Gilchrist.
Joyce Gilchrist testified
and examined evidence
in thousands of cases
during her 20-year career
as a chemist at the Oklahoma
City Police Department.
Now she finds herself
under the microscope,
and every case she worked on
is in question.
In 1989,
Joyce Gilchrist is the one
who did the serology testing.
I don't know if she tested it
wrong on purpose,
or if it was just
an accidental mistyping.
You had
a very popular nickname,
especially among
the police Homicide detectives.
- They call me Black Magic.
- Why?
I seem to be able
to do things with evidence
that nobody else was able to do.
Gilchrist was fired in 2001
an FBI investigation.
There was a lot of mistakes
with her testing
that she had done.
Joyce Gilchrist's testimony
led to the execution
of at least a dozen inmates.
Everything that she did,
from collection
of the evidence,
storing, cataloguing,
and analysis,
it's all faulty.
Using the technology
that we had at the time,
I did the best job I could.
I've never lied to anyone
about anything.
Over the years,
the Beatrice Police Department
was often shamed
for having "not solved"
this case,
when, in fact,
their police work
was stellar in this,
and they had the right guy.
They just got thrown
off the track by Gilchrist.
One of the regrets I have
is that I didn't go ahead
and contact
Bruce Allen Smith down there
and interview him.
Obviously, you trust
the information that you get
from the lab, and had
no reason not to trust it,
so there wouldn't be no reason
for us to come back
and do a double test on it.
But that's the reason
you keep it,
so if something
comes up later,
such as it did in this case,
you have that evidence.
Matter of fact,
if we wouldn't've kept it,
we probably
never would've ever proved
Bruce Allen Smith was there.
So once they come back,
and they say,
"It's Bruce Allen Smith,"
I'm like, well, let's get him
arrested as fast as we can.
As the task force,
we got together
and thought, you know,
we're probably gonna have
one shot at this guy,
so who's gonna interview him?
Who would be best?
'Course, I was like,
me, me, me, me, me!
We figured
he was probably still
in the Oklahoma City area,
and I'm down there and going
through his criminal history
and talking with his family.
We learned that
his grandmother had lived
in that same building
that Helen Wilson lived in.
And he had spent a lot of time
with his grandmother
as a child growing up,
and he hated his grandmother
because she was
very strict with him.
His family described him
as just a drifter, a loner.
He would disappear for months,
and none of his family
knew where he would be,
and then he would just
show back up.
Bruce was his own lone wolf.
And what made him
do this, I have no clue.
But I don't put it past him.
Bruce, he was a water baby.
When he was born, he had to
have surgery on his brain.
Mama said he had water on the brain.
His case criminal history
had a lot of drunken
and disorderly arrests,
a couple home invasion cases.
There was a rape.
He did serve
some time in prison,
and it says
in the booking records
that he was positive for AIDS.
I contacted the Oklahoma
state vital records,
and they told me
that he was deceased.
He died seven years
after the homicide.
We were just devastated.
We were never gonna be able
to confront him with the DNA
and hold Bruce Allen Smith
for the murder and rape
of Helen Wilson.
We have
conclusively established
that Helen Wilson's killer,
is Bruce Allen Smith.
In addition,
none of the six convicted
of this crime
had any connection
with Bruce Smith
or with this murder.
20 years ago, in zeal to make
a community feel safe again,
some members of law enforcement
bullied six innocent people
into admitting crimes
that they did not commit.
So we're taking
the following steps.
I will ask
the Nebraska Board of Pardons
to consider full pardons
for the six people wrongly
convicted in this case.
There's no doubt in my mind
that, in fact,
a full pardon is in order.
And, in fact,
we should act today.
There's no reason
to set a hearing
for additional evidence.
I believe the evidence
is overwhelmingly
and conclusive.
Pardons are granted.
Congratulations to all of you.
For 20 years,
they've been called killers.
Today, they're cleared
of the convictions.
Just happy it's over.
It's been a long time coming.
A long time in prison
for some of them.
January 29th would've been
19 calendars, day for day.
When we found out
that Bruce Allen Smith
was in fact the person
that raped Grandma,
and then we, at the same time,
found out
It was kind of like
the family was cheated
of an opportunity to find out
the real truth.
I believe with my whole heart
that Bruce Allen Smith
didn't kill my grandma.
He did horrific things to her,
but he didn't kill her.
We know Bruce Allen Smith
was there
because they found his blood.
Somebody had to let him in.
My grandma always had the door
locked and chained.
And you'd come
to the door and knock.
She'd ask who it was.
She would not have let somebody
she didn't know in that door.
Our family's theory is,
these guys were partying.
They were drunk.
They were high.
Whatever they were doing,
Debra Shelden said,
"We need some money.
I think I know
where I can get some."
They break in
to Grandma's apartment
or con her
into opening the door.
those guys did some really
horrific things to her.
And ultimately, we believe
that's when Grandma died.
At 11:50, my aunt called,
and after two rings,
the phone went dead.
So we know somebody
was in her apartment at 11:50.
We also believe
they actually made coffee.
And sat down at my grandma's
dining room table
and drank coffee
while my grandma's fighting
for her life.
Why do we feel that way?
there was six coffee mugs.
We know those mugs
weren't on the counter
or in the sink
the night before.
We don't really know
whether they were there
when Bruce showed up or not.
My theory is, we think
they probably had left by then.
They were there at midnight.
He got dropped off at 3:00.
They said he was already drunk
that night.
He came in.
The door was open.
He walked in.
He came in that building
to get warm,
Things happened.
He had just got
turned down by a girl,
and he was
sexually frustrated.
He walked into the apartment
and found an elderly woman
on the ground
and proceeded to take
advantage of that.
That's what we believe happened.
It's frustrating.
Little frustrating that people
can't see the whole picture.
DNA doesn't necessarily
answer all the questions.
We're gonna do
the round robin again
where you're just reading
one after another.
- So starting with scene 22.
- Mm-hmm.
Scene 22: DNA Exoneration.
"DNA only proves
they didn't rape her,
not that they weren't there."
"Five of them confessed.
They pleaded guilty in court."
"And all those defendants
how they participated
in the murder."
"I can tell you right now,
witnesses are the least
credible kind of testimony."
"Memory is fluid.
We all know that."
Anybody have any reactions
or thoughts?
I had a hard time
trying to get into,
like, particularly, like,
Burt Searcey's head
of, like, what he really
thought he was doing.
There are people
in the community
who have very strong feelings
about Burt Searcey.
Like, there are people
who refuse
to set foot in that business
and say, "If I die
"and anyone goes
to that business
"for anything for my funeral,
I will come back
to haunt them."
They do.
There are people
in the community
who have expressed
When my family asked, you know,
"Are you a good guy?"
I'm like, no.
I'm not a good guy in this one.
But as a character,
you have to sympathize
with your character.
Everyone's a hero
in their own story.
I asked this earlier, I asked
if Burt Searcey had ever apologized.
That's a good question.
Burt Searcey got to live
for 20 years
basically believing that
I solved this crime
that no one else could solve.
I interjected myself into this,
and so I'm the good guy
because I got this.
No one else did.
And then this all happens,
and then he's just kinda like,
I think that's something
that needs to be explored.
There's no accountability.
It's common for a lot of people
in power.
They never want to admit
they're wrong.
- Hello.
- Hello.
How are you? Grant Bennett.
- I'm playing Burt.
- Yeah, Grant, how are you?
So Grant, what made you
want to take this stupid part?
I guess I got lucky.
- You got lucky?
Well, I'm glad you think that.
I got a lot of lines,
so apparently,
it's an important part.
Yeah, you might have
a lot of lines.
I'm not looking to do
an impersonation at all.
I don't know
if you can impersonate me.
- Because I'm unique.
- Oh, yeah. Yeah.
I've been just trying to get
your speech pattern down.
this is your last monologue
in the play.
It's not the last line,
but it's the last thing
that you say.
"DNA doesn't answer
all the questions.
"Not everything was collected.
Not everything was secured.
"A lot of things weren't.
"I know the facts.
I worked the case.
"I've dealt with these people.
I don't doubt the fact
that they're guilty."
Good job.
- Good job.
This is the first time that
I've ever played a real person.
It's such a small town that,
I mean, I could get up there,
and I'm just hoping not to
stink up the joint, honestly.
You know you're gonna be
Oh. Oh, yeah.
Because I ended up
being the idiot.
I knew what the DNA,
and I knew what the talk
and everything, that
something was gonna happen.
And I got served papers
that I was being sued.
I think they owe us
all something.
They've ruined
a lot of people's lives.
Yes, restitution
definitely would be nice.
You know,
they made statements,
some of them Beatrice Six.
I was told they would make me
the first female on death row.
They tried to show
that I misled,
that I told them what to say,
that I had leading questions.
And if I brainwashed
and I got accused of that,
I'd have to have been
damn good at what I did.
And I'm pretty good,
but not that good.
The only person
that might tell you the truth
is Debbie Shelden.
I think that Debbie knows
what Debbie knows,
and I think
that Debbie's very honest.
held ground.
Held ground.
I think she felt really bad
about what was happening.
Interview with Cliff and
Deb Shelden at their house.
The date is 10/29/09.
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