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Accused murderer says he didn't intend to kill wife

Annie Zelm • Feb 11, 2011 at 8:24 AM

The day his wife died, Clifford Beach later recalled for police how he went to his shed and picked out some garden tools.

He told police he went back inside the home and pushed his wife's walker away from her recliner, so she couldn't escape. Then he removed the batteries from the house phone.

Sitting in his wheelchair, he approached his wife, Linda Beach, as she sat in her recliner.

"She said that she was scared," Beach told Bellevue police Capt. Matt Johnson in a recorded interview from Aug. 16, the day Linda died. "And I said, 'You should be.'"

Beach, 80, said he was seated in his wheelchair when he first struck Linda's hand with a pickax.

Then he aimed for her head.

"When you hit her, were you trying to kill her?" Johnson asked in the recording.

"Not really," Beach replied. "I wanted to hurt her."

Testifying at his trial in Huron County Common Pleas Court on Thursday, Beach said he only took the tools inside his home to smash the television and living room furniture.

He claimed he moved Linda's walker so he could reach the television, though photos from the crime scene show the television and furniture were untouched.

Pressed about how and why he struck his wife, Beach couldn't recall the details.

He took long pauses during questioning, and at times erupted into coughing fits.

"I heard the tape and I've seen the pictures," Beach said, his voice tightening. "There's a lot there that I can't give an answer to."

His court-appointed attorney, Reese Wineman, said there's no way to justify Beach's actions, but he didn't mean to kill his wife.

Huron County prosecutor Russ Leffler said the manner in which Linda was killed -- and Beach's apparent lack of remorse afterward -- proves otherwise.

Beach is on trial for aggravated murder, murder and gross abuse of a corpse.

His recorded interview with police on the day of the murder -- paired with his unexpected testimony in court -- painted a bleak portrait of the couple's life together.

It also unveiled gruesome details of Linda's final moments.

Leffler said it's clear Beach showed prior calculation when he pushed himself to the garage in his wheelchair while his wife was in the bathroom. He returned with three garden tools from the shed.

Beach sliced into Linda's arms and legs repeatedly after beating her with a pickax and other tools, Leffler said. He then left her mutilated body in the home overnight.

Leffler cited the medical examiner's report and held up graphic photographs from the scene -- a sort of final reminder to jurors.

"She didn't have a chance," Leffler said, directing jurors to a smiling photo of the 63-year-old woman who was married to Beach for 30 years.

"She died, according to the medical examiner, within two minutes from blows to the head," Leffler said. "I think when you consider those things, you'll have to convict him on these three charges. This is a gruesome, brutal crime."

Leffler said Beach sawed into Linda's limbs with knives in an apparent attempt to dismember her after she was dead. She had at least 60 wounds on her body.

Beach told the court he'd been unhappy with his wife for years and repeatedly asked her for a divorce. He complained she ate too much fast food, pilfered money from him and watched too much TV in her recliner, where police found her body the morning of Aug. 16.

While prosecutors said it's clear Beach killed his wife, jurors must decide if the evidence proves Beach actually intended to kill her.

After deliberating for a more than an hour on Thursday, the jury plans to reconvene today to reach a final verdict.

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