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How did Helen Wilson die? Cause of death explored ahead of Mind Over Murder premiere on HBO

A still from Mind Over Murder (Image via HBO)
A still from Mind Over Murder (Image via HBO)
Sourav Chakraborty

HBO's upcoming docu-series Mind Over Murder is all set to explore the bizarre and twisted case of Helen Wilson's death where six innocent people were convicted of a crime through police persuasion, threats, and flawed scientific explanations resulting in decades-long sentences for Joseph White, Thomas Winslow, Ada JoAnn Taylor, Debra Shelden, James Dean, and Kathy Gonzalez.

Helen Wilson was the grandmother of seven who lived in the sleepy town of Beatrice, Nebraska. On the morning of February 6, 1985, Helen's sister from the same apartment complex found her dead body and called the authorities. It was soon determined that she was suffocated to death and assaulted. This began the circle, which ended in the six suspects being wrongfully convicted for years before the real criminal was discovered.

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Read on to find out the real cause of Helen's death.


Who was Helen Wilson and how did she die?

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Helen Wilson was a resident of Beatrice, Nebraska, who was widowed early in her life and raised three children on her own in the same town. Helen was a beloved grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of five. She loved spending time with her family.

The day before authorities found her dead, her son had visited her at night as she was not feeling well. When he called later at midnight, she did not pick up. The following morning, Helen Wilson's sister found her body on the ground with her nightgown lifted. Her sister and her husband called the police right away.

The autopsy revealed that Helen Wilson was allegedly assaulted and suffocated to death. She also had pneumonia. There was also an alleged break-in but the police ruled out robbery as there was nothing of value missing from the house. The police initially connected this to three other similar instances where elderly women were attacked in their homes, but they managed to fight off the attacker.

The authorities did originally find the real murderer but due to faulty lab testing and lack of conviction on their part, he was let go without much fuss. Rather, the six odd suspects, Joseph White, Thomas Winslow, Ada Taylor, Debra Shelden, James Dean, and Kathy Gonzalez, collectively known as the "Beatrice Six," were rounded up and forcefully convinced that they were criminals despite none of them having any memory of the incident.

The bizarre accusations were taken seriously in the court and all six of them were sentenced to prison, with only Joseph White maintaining his innocence. White was simply prosecuted based on the false memories of the five other suspects. By the time the police found the real murderer, he was already dead.


Who killed Helen Wilson?

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The first suspect that the police rounded up, Bruce Allen Smith, turned out to be the killer after DNA evidence proved it two decades later. Bruce already had a history of criminal records and was originally accused after he threatened to assault a woman in a bar the same evening the murder took place. He was also allegedly spotted in Helen's neighborhood.

When Bruce Allen Smith was finally convicted of his crimes, he was already dead for over a decade. Unfortunately, he never answered for the crime while six innocent people served a long sentence owing to misjudgment of the authorities.

HBO's Mind Over Murder will look into the case in detail when it starts streaming on June 20, 2022.


Edited by Babylona Bora

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