Victims of the State

8 Cases

Map of Counties

U.S. Cases


County:   Cass   Douglas   Gage   Lancaster




Date of Alleged Crime


Cass County, NE Livers & Sampson Apr 17, 2006 (Murdock)

Matt Livers, a mentally retarded man, confessed to murdering his uncle and aunt after 18 hours of police questioning.  He also implicated his cousin, Nick Sampson.  The victims were Wayne and Sharmon Stock, who were found shot to death in their home.  Livers knew a few facts about the crime that he learned from relatives, but was unable to provide many details about it without being spoon-fed them by police.

Less than two months after Livers and Sampson were arrested, two Wisconsin teens, Gregory Fenster, 19, and his girlfriend, Jessica Reid, 17, were caught with evidence that they engaged in a multi-state crime spree of farmhouse burglaries and car thefts.  A ring left behind in the Stock's car was identified as having come from one of their burglaries.  The teens then confessed to the murders of the Stocks and were charged.  However, authorities did not drop charges against Livers and Sampson.  Instead, they clung to the idea that Livers and Sampson recruited the teens to kill the Stocks.  The teens at one point adopted this theory after police insisted they were lying.  However, physical evidence soon made this theory untenable and charges against Sampson were dropped on Oct 6.  Charges against Livers were dropped on Dec 4, after the state's own expert agreed with the defense expert that Livers was mentally retarded, vulnerable to police tactics, and that his confession was almost certainly false.  (TruthInJustice)  [2/07]


Douglas County, NE Juneal Pratt Aug 1975 (Omaha)
Juneal Pratt was convicted of raping and robbing two teenage Sioux City sisters at a downtown Omaha motel.  He was sentenced to 32 to 90 years.  The sisters made a cross-racial identification of him in a lineup.  Recent DNA tests have excluded him as the perpetrator.  (AP News)  [9/05]


Douglas County, NE Jeremy Sheets Sept 23, 1992
Jeremy Sheets was convicted in 1997 of the rape and murder of 17-year-old Kenyatta Bush.  His alleged accomplice, Adam Barnett, confessed to the crime and implicated Sheets in exchange for a plea deal.  Barnett later recanted his confession and committed suicide prior to Sheets's trial.  Barnett's taped confession was the key evidence used against Sheets at trial.  In 2000, the Nebraska Supreme Court overturned the conviction because it deemed Barnett's confession "highly suspect," "inherently unreliable," and hence inadmissible without the opportunity for Sheets to cross-examine Barnett.  Prosecutors dropped charges against Sheets after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal.  [9/05]


Gage County, NE William Jackson Marion 1872
In 1883, a body was found in clothing that witnesses identified as John Cameron's.  Cameron had disappeared 11 years before.  William Jackson Marion was convicted of murdering him and hanged on Mar. 25, 1887.  However, Cameron turned up alive in 1891 and explained that he had absconded to Mexico to avoid a shotgun wedding.  Marion was granted a posthumous pardon on the 100th anniversary of his hanging.  (CWC)


Gage County, NE Robert Mead Shumway Sept 3, 1907
Robert Mead Shumway, a farmhand, was convicted of murdering Sarah Martin, his employer's wife.  The murder occurred near Adams, Nebraska.  The conviction was based on circumstantial evidence.  Shumway was sentenced to death.  The one holdout juror for acquittal, who finally caved in, committed suicide before Shumway's execution from the grief of believing he had sent an innocent man to his death.  Shumway was hanged in Lincoln at the Nebraska State Prison on Mar. 5, 1909.  In 1910, Shumway's employer, Jacob Martin, confessed on his deathbed that he had murdered his wife.  [10/05]


Gage County, NE Nebraska Six Feb 5, 1985 (Beatrice)

Six people were convicted of charges related to the murder of sixty-eight-year-old Helen Wilson.  The victim had been raped, beaten, and strangled.  The six defendants were Thomas Winslow, Joseph White, Ada Joanna Taylor, Kathy Gonzalez, Deb Shelden, and James Dean.  The initial investigation into Wilson's murder went cold but it was revived in 1987 when a former Beatrice police officer, Bert Searcey, came forward with confidential informants. The informants said Taylor, a former Beatrice resident, admitted involvement in the murder. 

Searcey took over the investigation after being hired by the Gage County Sheriff's office.  Searcy focused on Taylor, White, and a group of friends who drank and took drugs together.  The theory behind the case was that White and Taylor wanted to rob Wilson and that her rape and murder just happened.  The theory left questions:  (1) How could six people could fit into Wilson's tiny apartment without anyone seeing or hearing them?  (2) Who would bring five witnesses to a sexual assault?  (3) If robbery was the motive, why was Wilson's purse filled with $1300 left untouched on a kitchen stool?

Except for White, all confessed to the crime after reportedly coercive interrogation techniques.  The techniques included the use of a psychiatrist to tell the defendants that they had repressed memories of the crime. There was also evidence that the police spoon fed details of the crimes to the defendants.  Several defendants were threatened with the death penalty, including Taylor who was told that she would be the first woman to be executed by the State of Nebraska if she did not confess and cooperate.  Taylor, Shelden, and Dean pled guilty to the crime while Gonzalez entered a no-contest plea.  Gonzalez, Shelden, and Dean were released from prison in 1994.

In 2008, DNA tests were performed which exonerated all of the Nebraska Six and led to the release of Winslow, White, and Taylor from prison.  The tests indicated Bruce Allen Smith of Oklahoma had committed Wilson's rape and murder.  Smith died of AIDS in 1992.  The Nebraska Attorney General's Office is, as of this writing, helping the Nebraska Six to obtain pardons.  The DNA exonerations, the first in Nebraska, were the largest mass DNA-based exonerations, surpassing the 2002 mass DNA exonerations of five individuals convicted of raping a jogger in New York City's Central Park.  (Bluhm) (State v. White)  [11/08]


Lancaster County, NE Darrel Parker Dec 14, 1955 (Lincoln)
Darrel F. Parker was convicted of the strangulation murder of his 22-year-old wife, Nancy Parker.  The murder occurred at the Parkers' home in Lincoln's Antelope Park.  Parker, then 24, confessed to the crime under alleged coercion.  In the confession Parker said he strangled his wife after she refused to have sex following breakfast.  Parker's defense argued that the murder had to have been committed by a sexual psychopath, while psychiatrists testified that Parker was not a psychopath.  Years later Parker's conviction was overturned because a court found his confession was coerced.  He was released in 1972.  In 1988, Wesley Peery, an early suspect in the crime, died.  His lawyer subsequently released his confession to the crime.  (Presumed Guilty) (Google)  [4/08]


Lancaster County, NE Gregory Gabel July 25, 1995 (Lincoln)
Gregory Gabel, a mentally ill Lincoln man, was jailed for two years, charged with the murder of UNL student Martina McMenamin.  Gabel was released in July 1998 after DNA testing showed a single blond hair clutched in the victim's hand was not Gabel's.  Gabel always maintained his innocence.  [6/05]