Oldson Trial Day 4: Small Town Events Could Have Big Impact

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

Though events took place in Ord more than two decades ago, the impact of Cathy Beard's murder has people from area small towns following the trial closely.

"A friend of mine knew Cathy Beard and he can't be here to watch it, he has to work, and he said she was a wonderful gal and just asked me if I would come and sit in on a few days of it," says Dawn Allen of Cairo.

Allen, a half dozen other curious citizens, and jurors returned to the Howard County Courthouse for the fourth day of testimony in the murder trial of John Oldson.

Part of Thursday's testimony centered around the time Cathy Beard was last seen on May 31, 1989.

The court watched taped testimony from and Ord optometrist and his wife who say John Oldson and his brick laying crew were doing work at their own home in the early summer of '89.

The doctor told police he called the Oldson home the evening of May 31st to speak with Oldson's father about the job, but talked with John instead. The defense was quick to point out that these were the days before cell phones, so this landline call means John was at home between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. when the doctor thinks he made the call.

A former boyfriend of Beard's also testified that though their two year long relationship ended about a month before Beard vanished, the parting was friendly. The defense showed letters the boyfriend had sent to investigators after Beard's disappearance in which he wrote about people other than Oldson they should look into.

Expert medical witnesses gave jurors a lesson in anatomy and anthropology Thursday too. A forensic DNA analyst from UNMC talked about positively identifying Beard with one of her teeth and blood sample from her mother in 2001 after her body was exhumed. She also testified that DNA degrades over time, which makes cold cases harder to solve. The defense questioned her about the Beatrice Six case, which the UNMC lab also tested. Oldson's attorney says in that case samples taken in 1986 were used to exonerate those people.

The prosecution also recalled a Nebraska State Patrol investigator who talked about finding a ring and watch with Beard's remains. He says a second watch was found a few days later by a road grader grading the nearby minimum maintenance road.

The trial continues on Friday.

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