Failure of Justice: A Brutal Murder, An Obsessed Cop, Six Wrongful Convictions by John FerakFailure of Justice: A Brutal Murder, An Obsessed Cop, Six Wrongful Convictions by John Ferak

Failure of Justice: A Brutal Murder, An Obsessed Cop, Six Wrongful Convictions

byJohn Ferak

Paperback | May 19, 2016

Pricing and Purchase Info

$19.82 online 
$27.50 list price save 27%
Earn 99 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


Feb. 5, 1985 marked one of the coldest nights on record that winter in the small Nebraska town of Beatrice. That evening, tenants in one downtown three-story apartment building hunkered down for a night of restful sleep. The next day, they were horrified as police cars lined along their otherwise peaceful street. The police found Helen Wilson, a widow in her late sixties, bound, raped and slain inside apartment Unit 4.

The local Beatrice police force made a gallant effort to identify the killer-rapist who seemed to have been targeting vulnerable older women since two summers ago. A specially trained FBI profiler, Peter Klismet Jr., was flown into Nebraska to determine the killer’s traits. After all, Helen Wilson was one of her tight-knit town’s nicest ladies. She enjoyed bingo. She baby-sat the children at her Methodist church. Who would want to harm her, everyone wondered?

At the time of the murder, Burt Searcey was a hog farmer who had worked for six years on the Beatrice police force. He quickly became obsessed with solving the case, though his theory would be a complete contradiction to the detailed profile developed by the FBI. Meanwhile, the murder investigation turned cold at the Beatrice Police Department to the enormous frustration of Helen Wilson's family,  who wanted their loved one's killer brought to justice.

By 1989, Searcey was a local sheriff's deputy and he got permission to take over his former city police colleagues’ case with the blessing of the sheriff. His investigation took him to Alabama, North Carolina and Colorado. He accomplished the miraculous. That year, Searcey secured the convictions of six loosely connected lost souls for the widow's savage rape and murder.

Searcey became a hometown hero. Gage County nominated Searcey for the VFW's annual J. Edgar Hoover Award given to the country's top law enforcement officer. As the years rolled by, Helen Wilson’s murder faded from the community's memory.

Then, many years later, Nebraska faced a conundrum. One of the convicted murderers, Joseph White, pleaded for a chance to allow new DNA testing of old evidence. Would the DNA tests cement his guilt or lead to a shocking new revelation: that Helen Wilson’s twisted rapist and killer was actually someone else, somebody still unidentified?

Title:Failure of Justice: A Brutal Murder, An Obsessed Cop, Six Wrongful ConvictionsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:452 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.91 inPublished:May 19, 2016Publisher:SceneBooks Inc.Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1942266472

ISBN - 13:9781942266471


Editorial Reviews

"It's shameful for what they did. They are unrepentant, they're engaged in self-deception, they have no remorse for what they have done, or if they do, they want to keep it very hidden. These people doing this stuff are so cruel. They are cruel like little children who pull wings off of butterflies and stick pins in beetles' eyes." - Legendary Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers reflecting on the Gage County officials responsible for the six wrongful murder convictions in the slaying of 68-year-old widow Helen Wilson"Burt Searcey, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, actually believes that Jo and the other five had something to do with Helen Wilson's death. That belief is literally unshakable in him." - Public defender Lyle J. Koenig, who represented JoAnn Taylor, one of the six wrongfully convicted people targeted by Gage County Sheriff's Deputy Burt Searcey in his investigation of the murder of Helen Wilson"I would imagine it would be hard for someone to reconcile themselves to the notion that they had put six innocent people in jail for fifty-some odd years in the aggregate, without some feeling of remorse." - Public defender Lyle Koenig reflecting on Burt Searcey, the misguided Gage County sheriff's deputy who sent six innocent people to prison for a vicious murder committed by someone else"The only real pressure we had was from the daughter of the lady that was killed. And she didn't think we were doing enough. We talked to her and we had the FBI profile. And they visited with her a little bit. She wasn't satisfied with what they were doing either." - Donald Luckeroth, the late former police chief of Beatrice, Nebraska, reflecting on the Helen Wilson murder case. "He worked for me at the Police Department for several years. He wasn't a team worker. When he left the department, he made the statement that it was a very poor administration. He decided to quit and become a hog farmer. I wasn't sorry to see him go." - Donald Luckeroth, the late former police chief of Beatrice, Nebraska, on former police officer Burt Searcey"I understand that Joseph was a stripper in California or somewhere. Somewhere along the line, he picked JoAnn up. She had a kid. I know JoAnn was on drugs. She told me she was on drugs numerous times. She told me she carried weapons, and I believed her. And she was a fighter. She loved to fight. And she loved to drink. And she loved her drugs." - Sam Stevens, long-time Beatrice Police Department detective, reflecting on eventual murder suspects JoAnn Taylor and Joseph White"When I looked back in the mirror, I saw me as a blonde with my hair up in the way the Victorian women used to wear it ... So we know that one of my lives has been during the Victorian ages, but we cannot pinpoint anything further than that." - JoAnn Taylor, who implicated herself in the murder of Helen Wilson, claimed she had lived at least five different past lives"I was convicted under perjurous testimony. I am not guilty of this crime. I have never been guilty of this crime, and even ifthe sentence is getting out due to parole, then I will take that opportunity to prove my innocence." - Joseph White, the beanpole from Alabama, steadfastly maintained his innocence in the rape and murder of Helen Wilson though a Nebraska jury disagreed"I am disappointed that twenty years ago, in their zeal to make a community feel safe again, to solve an unthinkable crime, the former county attorney and some members of law enforcement bullied six innocent people into admitting crimes they didn't commit." - Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning"While there is no doubt today that six people innocent of this crime have indeed suffered, we are doing now what we must and that is to give the public the unvarnished truth. It is they who will judge those who made these mistakes." - Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning