The 1985 small-town murder of Helen Wilson is a case that has seen many twists and turns. A few years after the murder, the authorities arrested six suspects seemingly involved and were eventually sent to prison. But DNA testing years later provided shocking results when all of them were ruled out. HBO’s ‘Mind Over Murder’ delves into the story behind the case and how the arrests came to be. Ada JoAnn Taylor was one of the first to be taken into custody and spent nearly two decades in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. So, let’s find out what happened to her then, shall we?
Who is Ada JoAnn Taylor?
When Ada was young, she lived on a cattle farm in Leicester, North Carolina. She had a difficult childhood and was molested by her stepfather until she was 11. Ada was then placed in foster care, and in 1981, she moved to Beatrice, Nebraska, with her boyfriend. Then 18-years-old, she was pregnant with his child. Things didn’t go her way because the boyfriend left her three weeks later. Eventually, Ada went to high school and tried to raise her daughter by herself.
Ada began seeing a psychologist and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. By 1985, she gave up her parental rights and moved to Los Angeles, California, where she earned a living doing sex work. In the sprawling South Californian city, Ada met Joseph White, and they returned to Beatrice because he wanted to help her fight for her daughter’s custody. In the same town a few months later, 68-year-old Helen Wilson was brutally raped and murdered in her home. Her body was found on February 6, 1985, at around 9:30 am.
While there was physical evidence in the case, testing was limited by the technology of the time. The case went cold until Burdette Searcey, a former police officer, began looking into the case and began compiling a list of suspects. He became a Deputy Sheriff in 1987. Eventually, Burdette came across Lisa Podendorf, who claimed that at around 7:30 am on February 6, 1985, she saw police vehicles outside Helen’s apartment and said that she remembered Ada confessing to the crime. According to Lisa, Ada and Joseph had killed Helen.
However, the time Lisa mentioned was off by two hours, and Burdette had already learned that Ada was with her parents when the crime was believed to have occurred. By March 1989, Ada was back in North Carolina with her family but was arrested there on suspicion of murder. Initially, she told the police that she didn’t remember information regarding the murder but was pressured into it. But Ada couldn’t remember even the basic details of the crime.
During an interview with a psychologist, Ada said, “In my head and in my heart, I know I wasn’t there.” Furthermore, Ada insisted that she had abused drugs and drank a lot back in 1985, causing her not to remember much. But over multiple interviews, her stance changed. Despite the blood type of Ada and Joseph not matching the evidence found at the scene, the authorities kept pushing for evidence and believed others were involved in the crime.
Ada kept agreeing to several suggestions made by Burdette during the interrogation and eventually began to believe she was involved in the crime. At one point, Ada said that she held a pillow over Helen’s head as a way to protect her. She said, “I know with my rape, my father’s face has haunted me all my life. I didn’t want her to see the face that would haunt her. I did not realize I was killing her.”
Where is Ada JoAnn Taylor Today?
Ada JoAnn Taylor and four others eventually pled guilty or no contest to their involvement, with Joseph going to trial. All of them were found guilty. Ada was convicted of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. It wasn’t until August 2008 that DNA tests showed none of the six were involved in the crime. By January 2009, all of them were pardoned. However, Ada had trouble believing her innocence. She once told a friend, “If I didn’t put the pillow on her head, why do I keep having these thoughts and visions?”
By 2008, Ada got her GED and completed a few courses at a community college in Omaha, Nebraska. At the time, she hoped to attend Bellevue University in Nebraska. Apart from having a relationship with her child, Ada began attending church regularly. Ada later said she lied to the authorities because of their claim that there was evidence to prove she was guilty.
Ada added, “I was coerced. I should have never went with what the investigators or the county attorney wanted said. I should have fought it. I hate the fact that I didn’t fight it.” She was awarded $500,000 for her wrongful conviction and, in July 2016, $7.3 million as part of a civil suit. Ada hoped to buy a small house with that money. As of 2017, her primary source of income was disability benefits, and she moved back to North Carolina after her release.
Read More: Where is Beatrice Six’s Thomas Winslow Now?