San Quentin death row inmate Justin Alan Helzer, who was convicted in 2004 of five murders in Concord and in Marin County in 2000, committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell Sunday, San Quentin State Prison Lt. Sam Robinson said this afternoon.
Helzer, 41, used a sheet attached to his single-cell’s bars to hang himself, Robinson said. A San Quentin corrections officer found Helzer around 10:17 p.m. during a security check, Robinson said. Helzer tried to kill himself three years ago by jabbing pencils and pens into his eye sockets. He had been under more intensive watch since then, but showed no recent signs to indicate he was at risk of another suicide attempt, Robinson said.
Helzer’s brother, Glenn Taylor Helzer, 42, is under intensive screening on death row to make sure he also is not at risk of killing himself, Robinson said. The Helzers were sentenced to death by a Contra Costa County Superior Court jury for killing an elderly couple, Ivan and Annette Stineman of Concord; 22-year-old Selina Bishop, the daughter of blues guitarist Elvin Bishop; Bishop’s mother Jennifer Villarin, 45, of Novato; and Villarin’s friend, James Gamble, 54.
The Helzers and their roommate Dawn Godman were alleged to have committed the killings as part of a murder and extortion plot to use stolen money to bring “joy, peace and love” to the world and to bring about the second coming of Christ, according to statements made in court during their trials. Justin Helzer was sentenced to death for the murders of the Stinemans and Bishop. He received life with the possibility of parole for the murders of Villarin and Gamble.
Glenn Helzer, who had been the Stinemans’ stockbroker, was sentenced to five death sentences. Godman pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2003 to nearly 38 years in prison. Dive teams found the dismembered remains of the Stinemans and Bishop inside several gym bags floating in the Sacramento Delta in August 2000. Villarin and Gamble were found shot to death inside Bishop’s Woodacre apartment.
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