Leffler: murder victim begged for mercy; Beach: 'I wanted to get out of my marriage'

Cary Ashby • Feb 11, 2011 at 4:50 PM

Clifford W. Beach testified Thursday afternoon he went to his garage Aug. 15 while his wife was in the bathroom after an argument and got some garden tools with the intention of smashing some furniture, including the television set. However, photographs from the scene indicate no damage to the furniture or TV.

The murder case against the 80-year-old Bellevue resident is now in the hands of a jury. (NOTE - The Reflector will post the verdict on this Web site as soon as it is announced.)

When asked by Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler if he got them to kill his 63-year-old wife, Beach said he didn't.

"I didn't intend to hit her," the defendant said.

Leffler also asked the defendant if killing his wife was the "culmination" of six or seven years of being treated badly.

Once, Beach paused a long time before answering: "Not the way you're presenting it." After Leffler asked Beach if his wife's death wasn't the way he wanted to end their 30-year marriage, the defendant said: "I wanted to get out of my marriage."

Beach testified he went to the garage many times over the years to get away from his wife, whom he accused of hiding checks from him and stealing money, and do exercises that strengthened his arms.

In his closing argument, Leffler said that getting the tools and knives shows prior calculation that Beach intended to kill Linda Beach, 63. The prosecutor also said the victim cried for mercy after Clifford Beach's first blow broke the bones in her hand, but Beach followed it with a "reign of blows" to his wife, who was trapped in her recliner, where she spent most of her time. Clifford Beach testified he had moved his wife's walker away to gain access to the TV.

"It wasn't like she was able to escape and crawl across the floor ... just absolutely brutal," Leffler told the jurors. "She died within two minutes after the blows to her head. There was not a lot of suffering."

Defense attorney Reese Wineman told the jurors the death of Linda Beach was "a crime of passion" and "a true tragedy."

"I'm going to tell you this up front: Clifford killed his wife; that's not at doubt here," Wineman told the jury. "But killed doesn't mean aggravated murder. ... He did not intend to cause his wife's death."

Beach, of 166 Walnut St., denied several times during his testimony that he got the garden tools to kill his wife. The pick ax, pruner and small shovel were found by authorities stacked against the wall behind the victim's recliner.

"He said in the tape he had hit her in the head with the pick ax," Bellevue Police Detective Capt. Matt Johnson said, referring to his recorded interview with Beach.

However, Beach said he didn't remember how many times he hit his wife with the pruner.

"He just said he hit her with the pruner," Johnson said. "My impression from Cliff was the first hit was on the hand. ... She started begging for mercy."

The interview was played for the court at the beginning of Thursday's testimony.

"She had her hands together. She said she was scared. I said, 'You should be.' She said, 'Please don't,'" Beach told the investigator.

Johnson asked the suspect if he was trying to kill his wife when he hit her.

"I wanted to hurt her more than anything," Beach responded. "I talked to her a long time. ... She was still alive."

Dr. Diane Scala-Barnett, the Lucas County deputy coroner who performed the autopsy Aug. 17, testified Wednesday the most devastating injury was to the victim's head. There were a total of 17 wounds to her face, forehead and top of her head.

"Once she received those wounds, she would have died very quickly," Scala-Barnett said.

Leffler said Beach showed some shame when he answered the door Aug. 16 and showed Wilma Townsend, a rural Bellevue resident who was at his house to take him to a doctor's appointment, only his face when he opened the back screen door. Townsend later called 9-1-1 at Beach's request. Leffler said Beach didn't want to reveal the "blood and gore" from the crime scene to the kind woman who had met Linda Beach through church two or three years ago.

"What he doesn't do is call authorities. What he doesn't do is call the ambulance. He attempts to dismember the body," Leffler said.

Calling the victim's death a "gruesome, brutal crime," Leffler said: "This isn't the way it's supposed to end."

The prosecutor said Beach's testimony Thursday shows he didn't have any remorse over killing his wife and still holds onto the "hate and anger that's built up over the years" of their marriage.

Beach is charged with aggravated murder, murder and gross abuse of a corpse. The jurors, who left the Huron County Courthouse about 30 minutes after getting the case late Thursday afternoon, will continue their deliberation today.

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