No decision on Beach's clemency application


DEER LODGE, Mont. - Three members of the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole did not make a decision Tuesday, on whether to approve Barry Beach's application for clemency.

People from across Montana showed up at the Powell County Community Center in Deer Lodge for the meeting. Twenty 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. But 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."

Beach was not in attendance at the meeting.

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.

The board has about three weeks to make a decision.