Children of Thunder

A murderous spree under the guise of a religious mission led by a self-proclaimed prophet.

The Children of Thunder was a small, infamous cult led by brothers Glenn Taylor Helzer and Justin Helzer, along with Glenn’s girlfriend, Dawn Godman. In the summer of 2000, their activities culminated in a shocking and brutal murder spree in California that aimed to finance a deluded plan to overthrow the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and expedite the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Glenn, who went by Taylor, envisioned himself as a prophet tasked with hastening the return of Jesus Christ to establish a state of peace and joy. He planned to accomplish this by uniting people against Satan, but his methods were far from peaceful or joyous. To fund his ambitions, Taylor devised several schemes, including starting a high-end prostitution ring and blackmailing clients, manipulating stock prices through property damage and false threats, and ultimately resorting to extortion and murder​​.

The group targeted five of Glenn’s former stockbrokerage clients, beginning with Ivan and Annette Stineman, a retired couple whom they manipulated into writing checks totaling $100,000. The Helzers and Godman held the couple at gunpoint, drugged them with Rohypnol, and forced them to smoke methamphetamine when the drugs caused the victims to become drowsy. When Annette Stineman could no longer write the checks due to the effects of the drugs, Dawn Godman forged the remaining checks​​.

The trio killed the Stinemans and dismembered their bodies, attempting to feed the remains to dogs and ultimately disposing of them in duffel bags dumped in a river. However, the plan to launder the stolen money through bank accounts required a third party unaware of the ultimate fate that awaited them​​.

Selina Bishop, the 22-year-old daughter of blues guitarist Elvin Bishop, was chosen to play this role. She met Taylor at a rave and fell deeply in love with him, unaware of his real identity and sinister intentions. Taylor convinced Selina to open bank accounts in her name to hide what he claimed was an inheritance from his ex-wife. In reality, these accounts were intended to launder the money extorted from the Stinemans. Tragically, Selina was completely unaware of Taylor’s plans and the danger she was in​​.

As the investigation unfolded, law enforcement discovered the brutal methods used by the cult, including the meticulous planning and execution of the murders. The use of duffel bags for disposing of the dismembered bodies and the attempt to clean up any evidence at their shared house were particularly gruesome details that emerged. Despite their efforts to cover their tracks, evidence including fingerprints in the Stinemans’ minivan and descriptions of the vehicles seen at the crime scenes led to their arrest​​.

Dawn Godman eventually cooperated with authorities, receiving a reduced sentence in exchange for her testimony against the Helzer brothers. Glenn Taylor Helzer and Justin Helzer were both convicted of multiple counts of murder, with Glenn receiving five death sentences and Justin receiving death sentences and additional life sentences. However, their convictions did little to console the families of their victims or mitigate the horror of their actions​​​​.

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