The Truth Behind The Murderous Cult Brothers Justin And Glenn Taylor Helzer

On August 3, 2000, authorities were called to a property in Marin County, California, after neighbors reported hearing gunfire. When they arrived on the scene, officials entered a small studio apartment, which was situated behind another larger home. As reported by People, authorities were stunned to find two people — an adult female and an adult male — dead inside the apartment. Upon further investigation, law enforcement officials identified the victims as 54-year-old Jim Gamble and his longtime friend 45-year-old Jenny Villarin. Authorities concluded that neither of the victims lived in the apartment, which was being leased by Villarin's daughter, 22-year-old Selina Bishop. At the time, Bishop's whereabouts were unknown.

Authorities believed Gamble and Villarin were killed by someone they knew or someone who had knowledge of the property, as the apartment was essentially hidden behind the larger home. They also noted there were no signs of forced entry into the apartment, and the front door was unlocked.

Police were called to two crime scenes that seemed unrelated

Law enforcement officials eventually learned Jim Gamble and Jenny Villarin agreed to stay at the apartment to keep an eye on things while Villarin's daughter went camping at Yosemite National Park. As reported by People, Selina Bishop planned to travel to Yosemite with her new boyfriend. Although she did not reveal many details about him, she told her family and friends his name was "Jordan."

People reports that authorities were unsure whether Bishop was somehow involved in the deaths of her mother and her friend or if she was another victim. However, they knew finding her would be integral to their investigation. Later that same morning, a woman reported that her parents, 85-year-old Ivan and 88-year-old Annette, were missing. She had not been able to contact her elderly parents for several days, and she was concerned for their safety. Authorities eventually found the couple's abandoned vehicle, but their whereabouts remained unknown.

Officials found nine duffel bags filled with body parts

Four days later, on August 7, 2000, the Sacramento County sheriff's department received a call from a man who found a large duffel bag while riding his jet ski in the Mokelumne River. As reported by People, the bag was one of nine that were eventually found in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Law enforcement officials confirmed that all of the bags contained dismembered human body parts.

Authorities eventually determined Selina Bishop's boyfriend "Jordan" was actually a man named Glenn Taylor Helzer, who went by the name Taylor. According to Murderpedia, Taylor was a stockbroker who was raised in the Catholic Church. However, he and his brother, Justin, eventually joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although Taylor had an interest in the Mormon religion, he believed some portions of the doctrine were far too restrictive.

The brothers both drank alcohol, smoked, and used drugs — which were all prohibited by the church. As a result, they were both eventually excommunicated (via Mormons Today). However, Taylor later sought to take over the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and run the organization according to his own doctrine.

Justin and Glenn Taylor Helzer formed an unusual cult

A self-proclaimed prophet, Taylor Helzer, convinced his brother Justin and his brother's girlfriend Dawn Godman that they needed to help him achieve his goals. Taylor called their newly-formed group "Children of Thunder." 

As reported by Murderpedia, Taylor's plan included adopting and training orphans from Brazil to assassinate 15 leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in an effort to pave the way for him to take their place. He also required money to carry out his nefarious plan. Taylor's scheme included extorting his former clients, Ivan and Annette Stineman, for $100,000. Although the couple gave him the money, he and Justin brutally killed the elderly couple. They then dismembered their bodies and packed them into duffle bags, which they eventually dumped in the river.

Murderpedia reports Taylor then befriended Selina Bishop, the daughter of blues musician Elvin Bishop, in the hopes that she could help him cash the checks written by the Stinemans. Although she was able to get them the money, Taylor and Justin killed Selina so she would not be able to implicate them in the crimes. They also killed Jim Gamble and Jenny Villarin, as Selina introduced Taylor to them, and they may have been able to identify him. Although she did not commit any of the murders, Dawn Godman was present, helped clean up, and drove the getaway car away from at least one of the scenes.

They were charged and convicted on several counts of murder

On the same day the dismembered bodies were found in the duffle bags, authorities identified the suspects as Justin and Glenn Taylor Helzer and Dawn Godman. All three were charged with multiple criminal counts, including murder. As reported by Murderpedia, all three initially pleaded not guilty.

Godman eventually pleaded guilty and testified against Taylor and Justin in exchange for a lighter sentence. She was ultimately sentenced to 38 years to life, with the possibility of parole after 35 years (via East Bay Times). Justin pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, as he argued that his brother manipulated him into committing the murders. According to SF Gate, several mental health professionals testified on Justin's behalf and concluded that he developed a "shared delusional disorder." Essentially, they said Justin experienced neglect and rejection in his childhood, which left him vulnerable to his brother's manipulation. However, prosecutors argued that Justin made his own decisions and was fully aware of the consequences of his actions. Justin was ultimately convicted on five counts of first-degree murder and was subsequently sentenced to death.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Justin Helzer died by suicide in 2013

Glenn Taylor Helzer was also convicted on five counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. As reported by the California Attorney General's Office, "a defendant who is sentenced to death is entitled to an automatic, non-waivable, direct appeal to the California Supreme Court." Therefore, Taylor remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

On April 16, 2013, the Daily Mail reported that Justin Helzer, who was also housed at San Quentin State Prison, died by suicide in his cell. Three years earlier, prison officials reported Justin was blinded when he stabbed himself in the eye. They believe the incident was another suicide attempt. In an interview prior to his death, Business Insider reports Justin admitted to journalist Nancy Mullane that he committed the murders. During the interview, Justin said, "I apologized, it was erroneous, it was so misdirected. I'm so sorry. It's like a past life. I'm so not that person anymore. So I don't have a problem admitting what I did."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.