A man will stand trial Monday after being accused of killing his wife 20 years ago while living in Selah.
Detectives say they believe Barry Beckford is guilty of murder.
Beckford, 62, denies that he killed his wife Deborah in February 1997. In one statement, he said his wife’s “clandestine drug life” was to blame for her death, and he referred to the murder investigation as a “witch hunt,” the Yakima Herald-Republic reports.
He faces a minimum sentence of 20 to 26 years in prison.
His wife of 13 years, a former Miss Teen Washington, was found shot in the head multiple times in her white Volkswagen Cabriolet on the 1000 block of Naches Wenas Grade.
Beckford asserted for years that his wife’s cocaine use was tied to her death, suggesting investigators should focus on Mexican cartel members and other suspects.
He also told police he was at home with his two children at the time of her death. Beckford was arrested at his new home in Idaho in 2015 on a charge of first-degree murder.
Originally held on $250,000 bail for first degree murder, the amount was quadrupled to $1 million after prosecutors said he tried to tamper with witnesses in the case.
About a year after his wife’s death, Beckford spent some time in jail for a separate crime. He pled guilty to an arson charge connected to a fire that destroyed his family home in Selah. Authorities believe he plotted with two other men to burn the house down while he was in Idaho. He was released in 2002.
Since then Beckford has changed his name to Barrett Bailey.
A 12-person jury was chosen on Monday morning from a pool of 100 prospective jurors. Judge Michael McCarthy will oversee the trail, which is scheduled to last five weeks – longer than most criminal trials in Yakima County.
Prosecution witnesses are expected to testify that Beckford likely had a financial motive to kill his wife and collect her life insurance. He never collected the insurance money.
Witnesses are also expected to testify that Beckford’s wife had considered leaving him around the time of her death.
Beckford’s state appointed defense attorney has called the investigation “botched” and “reckless.” He said the state’s theory of the case is “speculative and unrealistic.”
Both the state and defense have listed dozens of possible witnesses.
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