Trial begins for man accused of murdering wife
Feb 10, 2011 at 7:56 AM
Although they'll hear a powerful confession in which Clifford Beach admits to killing his wife, jurors must determine whether he planned his actions.
Huron County prosecutor Russ Leffler said the evidence clearly proves intent, but defense attorney Reese Wineman asked the jury to keep an open mind throughout the trial.
Jurors will be asked to review phone calls, recorded interviews and graphic photos of Linda Beach's mutilated body before deciding whether the 80-year-old man is guilty of murder, aggravated murder and gross abuse of a corpse.
The morning before his 63-year-old wife was brutally beaten, Beach asked her for a divorce, Leffler told the courtroom Wednesday in his opening argument.
"In a taped interview, you will hear the defendant explain what he's done," Leffler said. "He gives a number of reasons: She was spending lavishly on Burger King meals, handling envelopes in a manner he didn't liked, that he'd warned her about ... He said he'd meant to hurt her badly."
On the evening of Aug. 15, Beach walked to his garage to retrieve the pick axe and other garden tools he used to beat his wife to death while she sat in her recliner, Leffler said as he summarized police and witness statements. He then sawed into her limbs with knives as he tried to dismember her, leaving about 60 wounds on her body.
At some point, he wrote a note professing his love for her, which police later found, and also cut himself numerous times.
After falling asleep next to his wife of 30 years, he confessed to a woman who arrived the next morning to pick him up for a medical appointment, Leffler continued.
The woman, Wilma Townsend, took the stand first and explained how Beach peeked his head out of the door of his Walnut Street home, then told her to call 911.
Jurors also heard from Bellevue police officers and others who responded to the house that day.
Beach sat quietly next to his attorney throughout the first day of his trial, wearing a black suit and frequently scribbling on a pad of paper.
His attorney reminded jurors that although Beach's admissions are significant, they must determine whether all elements of the charges can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
"This was a terrible tragedy that took place Aug. 15," Wineman said. "I think it's very important that we keep in mind there were two people there. One of those people did give a statement afterward, an emotional statement. Listen carefully ... not just to the evidence, but to the taped statement. One of the things I've noticed is there are unasked questions, unasked issues."
Testimony is expected to continue today, with the trial likely concluding by the end of the week.