John Oldson faced twenty years to life in prison for his second degree murder conviction. Judge Karin Noakes called him a dangerous person with violent tendencies before she gave him the maximum sentence.
Just a few days after the 24th anniversary of Cathy Beard's disappearance, her best friend says her killer's sentence helps bring peace.
"Just a big sigh of relief knowing he'll never hurt anybody anymore," says Sharlene Whitefoot. "Cathy now can rest in peace, and her family can go on now too."
Oldson, 46, showed no emotion when told he'll spend life in prison for the crime. His attorneys say an appeal is likely.
Cathy Beard disappeared from the Someplace Else Tavern in Ord the night of May 31, 1989. Her remains were found in a pasture outside Ord a few years later. Officials who examined her bones say she was stabbed and beaten to death.
The case went unsolved until 2008 when current Valley County Sheriff Casey Hurlburt says he reopened the investigation.
"The county attorney said start looking over the case, he thought it was a solvable case," says Hurlburt. "In 2010 when the Cold Case Playing Card came out that the Nebraska State Patrol put out, that's when the team got together."
Officials say Oldson had long been suspected of killing Beard and dumping her body. Witnesses saw the two talking at the Someplace Else the night she vanished.
"From 1989 until today there were so many officers, sheriffs, police chiefs, that put their life and soul into this and we all had the same goal and everybody's relieved," says Hurlburt.
Beard's siblings came to the Howard County Court House in St. Paul where the trial was moved to find an impartial jury. They say the sentence gives them more than just closure for their sister.
"I do believe that justice has been served, and again, not so much because of Cathy, although that certainly plays a part, but the fact that he's not going to be able to harm other people any longer," says Bill Beard, Cathy's brother. "Especially women because that was his target."
Bill Beard says they've exhumed Cathy's remains three times in the past 20 years to try and solve the case. He says it was hard on their mother who lived with Cathy in 1989, and claims Oldson would often drive down the alley past his mother's house after Cathy went missing. Beard says they laid his sister to rest for what they hope is the final time in April.
Friends like Whitefoot say they may never have all the answers they're looking for.
"I just wish that I could have asked him why," she says.
Judge Noakes called Beard's death "vicious and violent," and told Oldson the maximum sentence was in part to protect the public. She referenced his prior sexual assault and child abuse convictions before sentencing him.