'Mind Over Murder' HBO: Who Were the Beatrice Six and Where Are They Now?

Mind Over Murder is the latest true-crime documentary on HBO Max you do not want to miss. Airing every Monday at 10 p.m. EDT from July 20, the six-part series explores the case of the "Beatrice Six," a group of friends who were wrongfully convicted of the 1985 murder and rape of Helen Wilson in Beatrice, Nebraska.

The series explores one of the biggest cases of false memory and wrongful conviction in the United States.

Who were the Beatrice Six and where are they now? Newsweek has everything you need to know.

Beatrice Six
In this January 26, 2009 file photo, four of the six people known as the Beatrice Six, from the left, James Dean, Ada JoAnn Taylor, Thomas Winslow and Debra Shelden applaud during a reception in Lincoln, Nebraska. AP

Who Were the Beatrice Six?

The Beatrice Six were Joseph White, Thomas Winslow, Ada JoAnn Taylor, Debra Shelden, James Dean and Kathy Gonzalez.

In 1989, four years after Wilson's death, the group stood accused of her rape and murder of Wilson, a 68-year-old grandmother living in Beatrice, Nebraska. They were found guilty in various different charges of murder and second-degree murder.

At first, friends Taylor and White were the only two accused of the attack. However, when Type B blood was found at the crime scene that did not match their blood types or Wilson's, police were certain other individuals were involved.

Taylor had named high school friends and more recent acquaintances in questioning, who police then had arrested. The final suspect, Gonzalez, fell under suspicion because both Shelden and Dean said they dreamed about her at the scene, according to The Washington Post. She was found to have Type B blood and soon the investigation was finished, with five out of six of the accused confessing to police they were responsible for the death of Wilson.

However, the convictions were secured on the grounds of five confessions that were later found to be false. They had been obtained from the suspects under the threat they would be given the death penalty if they did not admit to the crime.

The Beatrice Six were also told by Gage County Sheriff detectives and a police psychologist, Wayne Price, that they had committed the crime, despite them having absolutely no recollection of the attack, details The Washington Post.

They were also told their memories of the murder had been repressed and the events of the night of Wilson's death would eventually resurface during sleep or in moments of deep thought. Price always maintained his innocence.

By the end of the police investigation, Taylor, Shelden and Dean believed they were guilty of Wilson's murder. However, White, who did not confess to the police but was convicted on the basis of his friends' false convictions, spent the next 20 years fighting to clear his name.

In 2009, the Beatrice Six were exonerated after new DNA evidence surfaced in 2008.

The DNA matched Bruce Allen Smith, an original suspect in the case who had died in 1992. The following year, the Beatrice Six were exonerated.

Dr. Reena Roy, the Nebraska State Patrol forensic scientist who analysed blood and semen from the crime scene in 1985 was never called to testify, despite her analysis determining that none of the defendants was a specific match to blood or semen found at the crime scene

Where Are The Beatrice Six Now?

The Beatrice Six were released from prison in late 2008 and were officially exonerated in 2009.

During his time in prison, Joseph White was the driving force behind calls for a re-examination of the DNA evidence which later led to their exoneration.

He also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Gage County, Nebraska on behalf of The Beatrice Six in 2009. In July 2016, a jury awarded them $28 million and in 2019, the county's appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States was declined. The Beatrice Six received their first payment in June 2019.

Sadly, White died in a workplace accident in 2011. Speaking in 2019 to the Lincoln Journal Star following the Supreme Court's decision, White's mother, Lois shared: "My main objective in all of it was to see that his name was cleared and that the folks that put him through all that was held up to the light for the world to see."

Some members of The Beatrice Six were still haunted by feelings of guilt over the death of Wilson, an investigation by The New Yorker found in 2017, almost 10 years after their release.

Eli Chesen, a Nebraska psychologist who evaluated the group members after they left prison told The New Yorker some members suffered from Stockholm Syndrome.

She said: "They still believed to varying degrees that they had blood on their hands. Their new beliefs superseded their previous life experiences, like paper covering a rock."

Winslow pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. The Cinemaholic reports after his release, he spent a lot of time with his family and has continued to keep a low profile.

Taylor pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 to 40 years. Speaking to The New Yorker in 2017, Taylor shared she still struggled with the idea of her friends and family thinking she was a killer.

She said she has to tell herself: "You're not there, JoAnn. It's OK. You're not a bad person."

Mind Over Murder airs Mondays at 10 p.m. EDT from July 20 on HBO

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