The Killing at Poplar River

Editor’s Note:  You can read all my columns and comments about Barry Beach by going to “Categories” on the right, clicking on the arrow and selecting “Barry Beach.”

On Friday night, I watched, “The Killing at Poplar River” on Dateline NBC.It was a two-hour story about Barry Beach and his confession to the 1979 murder of Kim Nees near Poplar, Montana.

I was interested in hearing and seeing what Dateline had discovered for their show.The story did raise more doubt in my mind.I have a hard time believing, after watching the show, that Barry Beach committed this murder.Of course, I don’t believe that Dr. Jeffery MacDonald is guilty either. That murder happened in 1970.

Beach was sentenced, at age 20, to 100 years in prison, with no parole.He’s served about 25 years in the Montana State Prison.

Many people believe a group of girls committed the crime.There was one witness who testified that he saw them riding in Nees’ vehicle just before the murder.

The prosecutor in the case was Marc Racicot, who at that time was an assistant Montana attorney general.It did not appear on the Dateline show, that this was his best moment in the courtroom.

Beach is now being represented by Centurion Ministries.Centurion Ministries is a nonprofit organization.Through their work, they have helped free 40 wrongfully convicted inmates over the past 27 years.

Some other interesting information:

-Beach was arrested in Louisiana on suspicion of another crime.He should have asked for a lawyer from the start, but he gave a taped confession.He was just 20 and not the brightest bulb in the pack.

-Authorities in Montana lost the taped confession.It was erased.All they had was a signed confession. Beach says he was coerced into giving it.Of course, the Louisiana authorities contend it was a good confession.Dateline raised the suspicion that Louisiana authorities were given inside information by the local authorities in Montana to feed to Beach to make his confession seem more real.

-The evidence room at the police station in Poplar was broken into…by a police officer, who was the father of one of the girls listed as an original suspect.

-The FBI said a bloody palm print on the vehicle would lead authorities to the killer.It did not belong to Barry Beach.

-Several fingerprints at the crime scene did not belong to Barry Beach. In fact, it appears there was no proof whatsoever that he was even there.Not even a footprint belonging to Beach was found at the crime scene.All they had was a typed confession done in Louisiana, after long hours of grilling.Beach said he was told by the authorities in Louisiana that they would help him get off for the Montana murder if he confessed to it.Then he could go home.They also told him about what it was like to be electrocuted to scare him.

-Dateline contends, “The prosecutor [Racicot] told the jury to ignore it all, because police had contaminated the crime scene.”

-Kim Nees’ sister does not believe Beach did it.Several other people came forward and said another person had told them that they did it.

Beach’s case was heard by the Montana Board of Pardons and Paroles.Three weeks after the hearing, the three member board reached a decision, and it was unanimous: NO. The answer was “no” to everything; no pardon, clemency, parole, etc.So Barry Beach stays in prison, where by all accounts he has been a model prisoner.

Centurion filed papers in court because of new evidence.That was denied.They are appealing to the Montana Supreme Court.

There are more questions than answers in this case.I believe he should get a new trial.

You can read the transcript or watch the show HERE.

Editor’s Note:  You can read all my columns and comments about Barry Beach by going to “Categories” on the right, clicking on the arrow and selecting “Barry Beach.” 

13 thoughts on “The Killing at Poplar River

  1. Pingback: The Best of 2012 « The Western Word

  2. Just one more piece of evidence that our justice system is broken. People have got to stop throwing the baby out with the bath water and use some common sense. People are what’s wrong with the system. That’s where it starts and stops. People. Ignorant, self-serving, lazy people.

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  4. I saw this on Dateline las night and I think Barry Beach should be freed. There is no evidence putting him at the crime scene. A witness said that they saw a bunch of people in Kim Nees truck that night but the prosecuter said if they were there then their fingerprints would have been on the truck. Well if Barry Beach was there he fingerprints should have been on the truck as well. With all of this high tech DNA how come they don’t know who the finger and palm prints belong to??? Also, speaking of DNA why can’t they identify the owner of the hair on Kim’s shirt?
    What about the policeman that broke into the eveidence room??? This sounds like another West Memphis Three to me!

  5. I saw this on Dateline last night and I believe Barry Beach should be freed! There is absolutely no evidence putting him at the crime scene but there is a witness that saw these people in Kim Nees truck that night. The prosecuter said if these people were in the truck than their fingerprints would be on the truck. Well if Barry Beach was there then his fingerprints should have been there as well. How come they can’t determine who the bloody finger and palm prints belong to???? This sounds like another West Memphis Three to me!

  6. Anon: Yes. It seems if there were ever a case that needed to be re-tried, this one is it. -Jack

  7. This case is a travesty. I have been doing some research of my own about the town of poplar, mt, and the various unsolved or misreported murders that have occured in this town. I noticed that their have been some Red Dog murders lately, maybe someone should come forward and tell the truth about that fateful night in 1979 before more people have to die.

  8. arwritergal: Thanks for stopping by. I just hope that some day soon they allow Beach to have a new trial and settle it once and for all. -Jack

  9. Thanks for the blog. I watched this last night on Dateline, & I am outraged. I cannot believe that the board came back with a unanimous NO! What is it that the authorities are so afraid will come out if the REAL killer is found? Makes you wonder. Doesn’t it?

  10. Hey Fitz, I imagine the daughter of the policeman did get fingerprinted, but I am not for sure. I am also unsure if the policeman was disciplined. The whole investigation and trial seems a mess. The only way, I feel, for the mess to be put behind the community and the state is to have a new trial. There’s just too much we don’t know. Thanks for visiting,-Jack

  11. I have what may seem like a stupid question: Did the daughter of the tribal policeman ever get fingerprinted? And was the policeman ever disciplined for breaking into the evidence room? How was any of the evidence not treated as tainted by the presiding judge?

  12. ThanksOne note The tape of the confession was erased in Louisiana and the confession transcript was done by the same detective (Vie) that got the confession.(how convenient) Also it seems is not unusual for confession tapes in Louisiana to get mysteriously erased go to

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