Oldson Trial Day 3: Witnesses Testify About Finding Remains

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

The first degree murder trial of a former Valley County man continued in Howard County on Wednesday.

John Oldson is accused of killing Catherine Beard in Ord in 1989.

On the third day of the trial witnesses walked jurors through how Beard's remains were found in April of 1992, just one month shy of three years after she was last seen at an Ord bar.

The first was an Ord woman who found the first piece of Beard's skull along a minimum maintenance road while she picked up trash with her daughter to earn a Girl Scouts badge.

The second was the superintendent of a nearby historical recreation area.

The prosecution explained to jurors that Roye Linsday, the now retired superintendent of Ft. Hartsuff, also has an anthropology degree, and has helped excavate human remains before.

When the first piece of Beard's skull was given to police on April 26, 1992 law enforcement asked Lindsay to take a look.

He told jurors he was able to identify the fragment as human, as female, and between the ages of 25-40.

Lindsay says he thought it might be part of a Native American burial ground, but says everyone searching for more skeletal remains the next day knew there was a possibility the body was Beard's.

"Somewhere in the back of our minds we were probably hoping the mystery would be solved," says Lindsay, noting that Valley County authorities had brought him other bones turned in by locals that they thought might be human, but turned out to be those of animals.

Searchers found more unburied pieces of skeleton as the searched the pastures near the road on April 27, 1992. Members of the Nebraska State Historical Society arrived the next day and excavated more over the next several weeks.

The bones were later positively identified as Cathy Beard.

Another witness called by the prosecution said he was working with John Oldson at a brick-laying job during the time Beard disappeared.

He says he saw Oldson with Beard at the bar and saw them walk toward the back door together. The witness said when he saw Oldson later that night, Oldson looked like he'd just showered and said that Beard left the bar with two other men in a pickup. The witness testified that at the job site the next day they saw a police car, and when someone wondered aloud why it was there, Oldson said, "It's probably something I did."

Both the prosecution and defense are relying on original reports made in the early 1990s to jog witness memories. One witness said that every time police have questioned him it gets harder and harder to remember what happened more than 20 years ago.

The trial is set to resume Thursday morning.


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