DEER LODGE, Mont., June 11 (UPI) -- Support from Montana's governor failed to win clemency for a man sentenced to 100 years for killing a high school classmate, a murder he denies.
The Montana Board of Pardons & Paroles unanimously rejected Barry Beach's application. Board members said at a news conference that they do not believe the 30 years he has spent behind bars is adequate punishment for the brutal bludgeoning of Kimberly Nees in 1979.
The board heard 20 witnesses at a hearing in April, 19 of them speaking in favor of clemency. Billings Mayor Thomas Hanel, a former police officer, said he would welcome Beach back to the city where he lived during 18 months out of prison after a judge granted him a new trial in 2011.
Steve Bullock, Montana's Democratic governor, wrote the board, urging them to give Beach a chance at rehabilitation outside of prison.
Nees and Beach were both 17 when her body was found on the Fort Peck Reservation in northeast Montana. The two teenagers were classmates and lived near each other, and Beach had dated Nees's younger sister.
Beach, like many other people, was questioned immediately after the killing. He was arrested almost four years later in Louisiana and says he gave a coerced confession after hours of interrogation by police there.
Centurion Ministries, an advocacy group for the wrongly convicted in Princeton, N.J., and the Innocence Project have supported Beach's efforts to win release. He sought clemency after the Montana Supreme Court reversed a lower court finding for a new trial and returned him to prison.
"He's a good man," Robert Kolar, who owns a business in Helena, told the board in April. "He's stayed at my home numerous times, he's a good man that should be given another chance."