Evidence builds as witnesses testify in Beckford murder trial

Evidence builds as witnesses testify in Beckford murder trial
Barry Beckford speaks to his attorney during jury selection at Yakima County Superior Court. (Courtesy: Yakima Herald-Republic)

The murder trial of Barry Beckford continued Wednesday with a testimony from a Yakima County Sheriff’s detective who was with the defendant at the spot his wife was killed.

Beckford is accused of being responsible for the 1997 killing of his late wife Deborah, who was found with four gunshots to the head in her car parked outside of Naches. He’s been charged with first-degree murder.

The couple lived in Selah at the time. Beckford moved to Idaho soon after his wife’s death.

Beckford was thoroughly questioned after the incident, but he was ruled out as a suspect for almost two decades over lacking evidence.

He was arrested at his Idaho home in 2015 due to a collaborative investigation by sheriff’s detective and reality TV show “Cold Justice.”

Jeff Gillespie, the lead detective in the case, testified that Beckford told him not to worry about the killer when visiting the site her body was found. Beckford allegedly said the killer probably never killed before and probably wouldn’t kill again, the Yakima Herald-Republic reports.

This statement put Beckford on high alert with police, Gillespie said.

Several other witnesses mentioned suspicious behavior from Beckford following his wife’s murder.

On Monday his youngest son Christopher, who was only seven when his mother was killed, testified against his father. The week before, the victim’s brother Scott Smotherman, who temporarily lived with the couple, said Beckford didn’t seem interested in calling authorities after learning his wife had been shot to death.

The defendant has long considered his wife’s cocaine addiction as the primary culprit. He said his wife was likely killed by a drug dealer or someone affiliated with distribution.

Terry Morton, a longtime friend of the couple, said he saw both using cocaine during gatherings hosted at their house.

Other witnesses said Deborah’s cocaine use was excessive, and Beckford had been concerned about it.

Hair stylist Cathy Cacchiotti, who cut hair for the entire family, testified Tuesday that Beckford asked her whether she knew a gun could be melted down into balls two or three months before his wife’s death. She also said she was curious why police had never questioned her initially.

Phone records show Beckford called police to report his wife missing the morning after her murder. Gillespie recalled concern over the lack of emotion in Beckford’s voice.

Reports say he also cried and hugged his in-laws when police informed him that his wife was shot.

Prosecutors are arguing based on circumstantial evidence that the wife, who was 32 at the time, was killed because of the defendant’s financial concerns or fear that she would divorce him.

The defense says arguments against him are purely speculative.

He’s being tried in Yakima County Superior Court.

If convicted of murder, Beckford will be facing a base sentence of 20 to 26 years in prison.

The trial is expected to last up to five weeks from when it began with a jury selection on Monday Mar. 13.