Nebraska Police Investigator Talks About Her Role In The Beatrice 6 Investigation
In 2003, I became the Beatrice Police Department’s Criminal Investigator. At the time the department had only one investigator position. I knew the story of the Helen Wilson murder and subsequent investigation that led to the arrest and conviction of six people. I had not reviewed any of the case file and never questioned their guilt or innocence. I just believed they were guilty of what they were convicted of.
On December 13, 2007, I drove from Beatrice, Nebraska to the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln, Nebraska and met with Joseph White, one of the convicted killers. I obtained two buccal swabs from Joseph White. I’ll never forget my thoughts as I was sealing the buccal swabs with evidence tape. As I had my back to Joseph White and his attorney, Jerry Soucie, I heard Joseph White ask Jerry Soucie how long before the results came back, because he was innocent, and this test was going to get him out of prison. I remember thinking to myself that he was wrong and was going to stay right where he was for the rest of his life, in prison.
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I may have even rolled my eyes listening to their conversation. I remember thinking that we just wait for the results proving their guilt and I can be done with this and move on to my active cases again.
Then in July 2008, I found myself having to stand back and look at a case that is not making any sense to me. At this point, the DNA, the crime scene, interviews with the defendants, and basically the entire case doesn’t make much sense. It was really starting to look like someone got “tunnel vision” and had a theory and did whatever was needed to help prove that theory. I had a hard time understanding how this crime happened the way they said it did. I knew that Beatrice Police Lt. Mike Oliver was also thinking the same thing. We both out loud said, “we have a problem.”
As I reflect back to my work on this case, I am reminded of the importance of checks and balances when it comes to criminal justice. I know of several times during the investigation where I thought and probably even said out loud, “why didn’t anyone see this?” or “how could someone have not caught that?”
I think that a horrible senseless unsolved rape and murder in a small town created the perfect storm for this case. Tunnel vision and the lack of checks and balances helped brew the storm.
Tina Vath is a former officer with the Beatrice Police Department. Today, Vath is a criminal investigator for the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office in Lincoln.