Winters in Wisconsin can be downright frigid. Except for shoveling the snow off the driveway and the sidewalks, there isn’t much motivation for going out. But back in January of 2014 I was looking forward to venturing outside for a change, even if it was for just a brief moment. It pertained to the infamous Beatrice 6 murder case.
God bless the U.S. Post Office. The package arrived on time. Inside the small box was a small computer disk. When I popped it into my computer’s DVD player, it read “Ferak copy non-privileged.”
Up to that point, all I knew were just the bare-bone facts surrounding the wicked small-town murder of Helen Wilson. Dubbed the Beatrice 6 case, the crime captured statewide and limited national coverage back in 2008 and 2009 when I lived in Nebraska. However, I had no prior experience covering the case as a journalist unlike my first three books: BLOODY LIES: A CSI SCANDAL IN THE HEARTLAND, DIXIE’S LAST STAND and BODY OF PROOF: TAINTED EVIDENCE IN THE MURDER OF JESSICA O’GRADY?
So I spent a good portion of 2014 dissecting thousands of old police reports, interview statements and voluminous court transcripts contained on that disk. I re-read the reports over and over. I got out yellow and pink markers to highlight statements. As time wore on, I tracked down even more documents. Moreover, I studied the personalities associated with the case. I knew going into this book project that the Beatrice 6 posed a great challenge because, well, six different people were convicted of Helen Wilson’s murder and all of them were innocent! Fortunately, many of the key people central to the plot have dynamic personalities.
Here’s a handful of them:
Joseph White, a lanky Alabaman who proudly served in the U.S. Army for three years after high school including a stint in Korea. After the Army, White wound up in Hollywood where he tried to make it in the adult film industry as a nude model.
Ada JoAnn Taylor, a medium-height brunette from North Carolina. Taylor was sure she had lived five past lives including one as a Victorian Era blonde. She became a model and a nude dancer at a gentleman’s club in LA called Coco’s Bar. She was once arrested for kicking a Los Angeles police officer in the groin during an arrest for drunk and disorderly conduct.
Burt Searcey, a gabby fellow and jack of all tradesman who hailed from a tiny town in far southeastern Nebraska. After high school, Searcey took up farming. He was a skilled welder and grain elevator operator, but he found farm life monotonous. In the 1970s, Searcey became glued to police TV shows. He soon decided to become a cop.
Richard T. Smith, the Gage County Attorney in Nebraska. Smith was the ultimate micro-manager. Adversaries called him “King Richard” and many local police officers despised the man. A big burly guy with an intimidating presence,
Dick Smith made sure everyone knew that he was the top law enforcement official of largely rural Gage County.
Check back in the coming days for more updates and more blog posts surrounding my book about the largest DNA exoneration in the country for a single murder case.