Oldson Trial Day 8: What Else Could Have Happened to Cathy Beard?

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

John Oldson's defense attorneys wasted no time in starting to lay out their side of the story calling eleven witnesses on Wednesday.

Some of that testimony posed a new question for jurors - what else could have happened to Cathy Beard that night if she didn't leave the Someplace Else Tavern with John Oldson?

The defense spent time talking to witnesses who may have seen Beard in other places both on and after the day she disappeared from Ord.

A Burwell area rancher and a convenience store clerk talked about how they thought they saw Cathy Beard in a Burwell convenience store the night of May 31, 1989 - the same night she went missing. The rancher says he thought the woman in the store was "on something" like drugs or alcohol, and says when he saw a photo of her in a newspaper, he thought it was the same woman.

An Ord cattle buyer, who said he was intimate with Beard, also told law enforcement he thought he met Beard in a passing car as he was driving back from Valentine that next day - June 1. He said the car he met near Ainsworth was similar to one that was often parked across from Beard's house and he thought she was sitting in the front seat with at least two other people.

A now retired state trooper in the panhandle says he interviewed a cafe owner and waitress in Morrill in July of 1989. He says they saw a woman they thought matched Cathy Beard's missing photo also on June 1 in their restaurant, but the woman was wearing different clothing than what Beard was last seen in and what her body was found in, and called herself by another name. The cafe owner told the trooper he'd gotten the photo of Beard while he was visiting family in Taylor. They said the woman was dressed only in a nightgown and carrying a green duffel bag. She had money, but they didn't charge for her meal or a to-go order because they felt sorry for her. They also said they did not see her come to the restaurant or leave in a vehicle, and never saw her again.

Armed Robbery Connection?

The defense asked more questions of other witnesses today about some other activity happening in Ord the night Beard disappeared - specifically about an armed robbery at a motel on the west edge of town.

Those events stared not at the Someplace Else Tavern but at the Ya'll Come Back Now Saloon. A member of John Oldson's brick laying crew and a retired NSP investigator told jurors that a Colorado man checked into the Hillcrest Motel, then started flashing money around the saloon. He offered $100 to anyone who could "get him a girl for the night."

Two Ord men left the saloon and went to the Someplace Else to see if Beard would help them get the money, but the men told police Beard had already left the bar when they got there.

Later that night the men went to the motel with a sawed off shotgun and tried to rob the Colorado man. They didn't get any money and later confessed to the robbery, but maintain they never saw Beard that night.

Oldson's Ex-Wife Says He Never Threatened Her

The defense also called John Oldson's ex-wife to the stand. She denied that Oldson ever threatened her - refuting other witnesses that say they overheard Oldson say he would do to his wife what he did to Cathy Beard. She says she did leave the Someplace Else crying once, but it was before she and Oldson were married, and she was upset about a song playing on the jukebox.

She says she's spoken to police numerous times over the years and told the court, "I had hoped to move on with my life after I divorced John and I feel like I keep getting dragged back into things."

Witness Changes Story

One witness Wednesday afternoon, like others that jurors have heard from during this trial, told a different version of events today than in previous statements to police. This Ord resident had corroborated Oldson's story that Beard didn't leave the bar with him, but in a strange pickup with Loup County license plates.

On Wednesday the man said that he saw Oldson get in that same pickup with Beard and at least two strange men, but the witnesses description of the men and number changed between police statements and as he testified before the court.

The judge told jurors she expects the defense to finish presenting on Thursday with the possibility of closing arguments in the afternoon.


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