Board of Pardons, Parole to announce Beach decision


DEER LODGE, Mont. - Members of the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole are ready to announce a decision on Barry Beach's reapplication for executive clemency.

Chairman Mike McKee announced that a press conference will be held Wednesday, June 11, at 11 a.m. at the Deer Lodge Community Center. The board will announce its decision on whether to accept Beach's application.

In April, people from across Montana showed up for the meeting when 20 people urged the board to give Beach another chance at freedom.

Beach was convicted of the 1979 murder of Poplar teenager Kimberly Nees. He maintains he was coerced to confess during intense interrogation.

A judge sentenced Beach in 1984 to 100 years in the Montana State Prison without parole.

In 2011, Fergus County District Court Judge E. Wayne Phillips granted Beach a new trial and freed him on bail. The Montana Supreme Court overruled that decision in 2013 and sent Beach back to prison after 18 months.

Board members heard from people who housed, employed and befriended Beach during those 18 months. They said Beach is no threat and would be an asset to the community.

"Barry has a job as soon as he's out. He can come to work for me," said former employer and owner of the Clocktower Inn in Billings Stephen Wahrlich.

Billings Mayor Thomas Hanel told the board he would welcome Beach back to the city.

"We have a place for him. We have the support for him. We have people waiting for him to help him to succeed in life and once again be a useful citizen and a member of our fine society," Hanel.

Flathead County Attorney and Kalispell resident Ed Corrigan was the only person to speak in opposition to the clemency application.

"This was a brutal, horrific crime," Corrigan said. "It is not the type of crime for which clemency should be granted, and it is for that reason that I am here before the board opposing Mr. Beach's request."

If the board accepts his application, they will order an investigation for a clemency hearing. If not, Beach's 100-year prison sentence will stand.

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