ST. PAUL, Neb. — Bill Beard is relieved that after nearly 24 years, justice has finally been served for his sister’s death.
After deliberating 6½ hours, a jury found John Oldson guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Cathy Beard of Ord.
“Today we had 12 members of the jury give a verdict of second-degree murder, which will help us greatly to put closure to this entire years-long journey,” Beard said.
The jury of eight women and four men had been instructed that they could find Oldson guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of second-degree murder or not guilty.
Cathy Beard was 31 when she disappeared on May 31, 1989, from the Someplace Else Tavern in Ord, where she was a part-time waitress.
She had left her keys, cigarettes and jacket in the bar the last night she was seen alive and walked out the back door with Oldson. Her skeletal remains were discovered three years later in a rural Valley County pasture.
Although he fidgeted as the jury entered the courtroom, Oldson looked straight ahead and didn’t react as Howard County Clerk Marge Palmberg read the verdict aloud. As he left the courthouse, he gestured to his mother, who had been in the courtroom every day of the trial.
Bill Beard said that for his family — including his sisters, Mary and Linda, and brother, Robert — the two weeks of the trial were less about Oldson and more about their sister. He and his sisters also were in the courtroom for nearly the entire trial.
Cathy “went through a terrible, terrible ordeal that no one should,” he said, adding that he thanked all of the members of law enforcement who investigated her disappearance and death.
Beard said he knew that the case also affected officers who worked on it.
“Larry Karschner — who was one of the first investigators from State Patrol on the scene — years later, he told me he still had Cathy’s picture on his desk,” he said. “I knew that they were not going to give up.”
Valley County Sheriff Casey Hurlburt, who had started the ball rolling on the case again in 2010, said he felt good about the outcome.
“We’re all here for one reason, and that’s justice for Cathy Beard,” Hurlburt said, adding that a team of law enforcement from 1989 to today worked hard on the case. “There was a lot of officers who put their heart and soul into this.”
Hurlburt said the two weeks of trial were a little “overwhelming.”
“Thanks to the 12 people who listened to both sides of the case and came up with the verdict of second-degree murder,” he said.
Sentencing was set for April 1 in Howard County, where the trial was conducted after Judge Karin Noakes ruled for a change of venue in part because the Someplace Else Tavern is across the street from the Valley County Courthouse and is visible from the courtroom.
Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 20 years to life in prison.