MARTINEZ – Jurors in the penalty trial of Glenn Taylor Helzer heard two witnesses once close to Helzer describe how he masterminded an extortion plot and five murders in the summer of 2000.
Victims’ family members and jurors cried as they heard how Helzer and his accomplices killed two of their victims in a bathroom and then placed their body parts in bags.
The jury, which must recommend either life in prison or a death sentence for Helzer, heard from former Playboy Magazine model Keri Mendoza and Dawn Godman, a confessed accomplice of Helzer’s.
Mendoza wove the story of how she and Helzer met and dated and how he tried to involve her in his plans to make money. She occasionally wiped her eyes behind dark sunglasses that a bailiff later had her remove.
Prosecutor Harold Jewett’s questions focused on Helzer’s sanity. Defense attorney Suzanne Chapot’s cross-examination led to testimony from Mendoza about how affectionate Helzer was.
Helzer practiced his demeanor with her to convince a doctor that he was having psychological problems, Mendoza said. This allowed him to leave his job as stockbroker at Morgan Stanley in August 1998 and receive disability pay.
He asked her to help him set up an escort service he was going to call the Feline Club, which would solicit wealthy men to socialize with “beautiful women,” she said. This was one of several plans Mendoza said never materialized.
Helzer also told her he wanted to import girls from Brazil, where he served a year as a young Mormon missionary. She drove with him to Tijuana, Mexico, to purchase Rohypnol, a date-rape drug, she said.
Like other witnesses for the prosecution, Mendoza painted Helzer as “positive, full of life and love.”
Godman, who is serving a 38-year-to-life prison sentence for the killings, took the stand in the afternoon. Helzer intended to set up the escort service to make money that he, his brother and Godman would use to fund a self-help program to bring harmony to the world, she said. A plot to blackmail stockbrokers after tricking them into having sex with underage girls would support the program as well, she said.
She said she and the Helzer brothers gave the Rohypnol to murder victims Ivan and Annette Stineman to get them drowsy as they signed checks that Godman could deposit. Helzer wanted to give them enough of the drug to overdose, she said. But they didn’t.
Families of the victims who have been following the penalty trial are hearing most of these details for a second time, having sat through the criminal and penalty trials of Helzer’s younger brother, Justin, who was convicted in June.