Reasonable Doubt is back on Investigation Discovery and is examining the shooting of self-made millionaire and TV tycoon Steven Beard in his home in Austin, Texas, in 1999. His wife, Celeste Beard, is serving time for the murder along with her so-called lesbian lover Tracey Tarlton.
Celeste Beard has always maintained her innocence, and Reasonable Doubt asks the question, does she deserve to be behind bars?
Steven and Celeste had married in 1995; they had met at the Austin country club where she waitressed, and he was a member. He was 69, and she was 32. Friends have said they’re unsure what drew the couple together beyond “his money.”
Steven allegedly gave Celeste a monthly allowance of about $35,000, but after he became concerned about her spending, he replaced the benefit with a trust fund of $500,000. Celeste is accused of blowing the fund in about 6-months.
In 1999 Celeste entered a psychiatric clinic where she met lesbian Tracey Tarlton; the pair struck up a close friendship, possibly a romantic one.
An intruder shoots Steven Beard
Then in October 1999, an intruder crept into Steven’s bedroom and fired a 20-gauge shotgun hitting him in the chest at point-blank range. He survived this initial blast but died the following January in a hospital bed due to complications arising from the injury.
Beard managed to dial 911 himself, and he told the operator, “my guts are in my hands.”
Police were given a tip-off that quickly directed them to Tracey Tarlton; she was immediately arrested and eventually confessed to pulling the trigger. Tarlton agreed to a deal with prosecutors; in exchange for testifying against Celeste, she would receive a reduced sentence of 20 years.
Did Tarlton act alone or was she directed
Tarlton told authorities that Celeste had persuaded her to shoot Steven so that they could be together. Celeste’s defense lawyers argued that Tarlton was a spurned and jealous lover who had acted alone and shot Steven in a jealous rage.
In 2003 Celeste was sentenced to 40 years in prison for conspiring to murder her husband. She continues to maintain her innocence, and it remains unclear if Tarlton and Celeste were lovers or just friends
More cases where there is reasonable doubt
Follow the links to read about other cases of murder where the identity of the killer is far from clear. Reasonable Doubt recently looked at the mysterious death of Kathy Middleton in 1990. Her husband, Ken Middleton, is serving time for the murder, but many believe he is innocent.
In another case profiled on The Object of Murder on ID, the fate of Rodney Lincoln is examined. Lincoln was convicted of the murder of JoAnn Tate in 1982 and was sentenced to life in prison. Lincoln spent 34 years incarcerated before authorities admitted they had made a mistake and released him in 2017.
Watch Reasonable Doubt at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.