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Bellevue man, 80, gets life for killing wife

Annie Zelm • Mar 23, 2011 at 9:15 AM

(UPDATED AT 9:16 A.M.) Clifford Beach showed no mercy when he attacked his wife with garden tools, a Huron County judge said, and so the court showed him no mercy on Tuesday.

Judge James Conway sentenced the 80-year-old man to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the aggravated murder of Linda Beach, 63.

"This is certainly one of the most serious crimes the court has ever seen," Conway said, reminding the courtroom that Beach crushed Linda's skull with a pick axe and slashed her arms and legs more than 100 times with knives. "This was premeditated, ruthless. And the court finds nothing in the psychological findings that shows he did not know right from wrong. He continues to express no remorse."

A jury last month convicted Beach of aggravated murder, murder and gross abuse of a corpse for the Aug. 16 slaying of his wife.

Prosecutor Russ Leffler asked the judge to impose a life sentence without parole so there would be no possibility that Beach could be released early because of his medical problems.

He also requested a fine for Beach, who had listed his wife's frivolous spending among his reasons for wanting to divorce her.

"Maybe that would create some remorse in him if some of his assets were taken," Leffler said. "He's complaining about his wife spending money at Burger King when he's got $100,000 in the bank."

The judge imposed a total fine of $27,500.

Beach's attorney, Reese Wineman, argued for a "more humane approach" than life behind bars, citing a psychiatrist's findings that Beach's traumatic brain injury and dementia made him unable to control his aggression.

Beach has been in a wheelchair since he suffered a severe head injury after falling a significant distance on the job in 1984, and he underwent years of rehabilitation. The brain injury caused other serious problems, including vision loss and fainting spells, Wineman said as he read statements from two doctors who evaluated Beach.

In recent years, he'd been diagnosed with dementia, and police reports show he'd become increasingly violent toward his wife.

Beach was found competent to stand trial, although Wineman said it's clear he had a diminished mental capacity.

Ohio law does not allow that to be used as a defense, but Wineman asked the judge to consider Beach's mental capacity in sentencing.

He also pointed out that after killing Linda, Beach attempted to take his own life by slashing his arms, rather than trying to cover up his crimes.

That shows he knew he'd lost control and was clearly upset by what he'd done, Wineman said.

Beach sat stoically in the courtroom as the judge announced his sentence. When asked if he understood, he paused for a moment, then nodded and mumbled incoherently.

His half-brother, Bill Sinkus, was the only relative of Cliff or Linda Beach who sat through the trial, and he continued to show his support even as deputies wheeled Cliff Beach out of the courtroom for the last time.

He said they plan to file an appeal.

"I think the judge was totally out of line imposing that harsh of a sentence," Sinkus told the Register after the hearing. "There was no regard for any of the medical evidence that was presented."

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