*Published Tuesday, Nov. 20 in The Saline Courier. A small selection of local stories is available online, but for full access to content, subscribe to our print or electronic edition. 315-8228
A Traskwood man convicted of murder two decades ago pleaded guilty today to helping bury the body of a man in 2008, but he will not be serving additional jail time because of that act.
Jay W. Beeson Jr., 53, appeared before Saline County Circuit Judge Gary Arnold and admitted to charges of kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, and hindering apprehension of a crime. However, his attorney, Patrick Benca of Little Rock, said Beeson was not involved in the actual murder of Randall Craig Anderson of Mabelvale on Feb. 15, 2008.
Beeson had been arrested during the investigation of convicted murderer Marissa Wright, who is now serving two life sentences with the Arkansas Department of Correction.
On Nov. 7, the 50-year-old Wright pleaded guilty to murdering Anderson in 2008 and Joe Lee "Joey" Richards Jr. of Benton on Oct. 8, 2010. Both murders took place at her home in Traskwood.
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Wright for two capital murder charges and had charged Beeson with capital murder for the death of Anderson before the plea arrangement was approved. Prosecutors noted in court documents that Anderson was killed in "an especially cruel or depraved manner."
"(Prosecutors) dismissed the capital murder charge (against Beeson) because he was not involved in that," Benca said. "Marissa (Wright) was solely involved in that. But he participated in the burial of the body. He gave facts today, saying that 'Yeah, I brought him back to the house,' which is the kidnapping charge, and he admitted that he helped bury the body. The plea bargain (with prosecutors) came about because it was going to result in him being set free, and I think there was a factual basis for the plea today."
Benca added, "For his penalty he (Beeson) was given 385 days in the Saline County jail, but he got credit for time served and he'll be released today with a 10-year suspended imposition of sentence."
Saline County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Bush said that if Beeson violates terms of his suspended imposition of sentence within the next 10 years, he can be sentenced up to 46 years with the Department of Correction.
Wright said in court documents, video confession and in her plea agreement that on Feb. 15, 2008, Anderson stole items from her home and then fled into a field. She then called Beeson and he later brought Anderson back to the home. She said the two hog-tied Anderson, wrapped him in plastic and used physical force to "coerce a confession" concerning missing items, including jewelry belonging to Wright's mother.
Because Anderson reportedly refused to cooperate, Wright said she left Anderson wrapped in plastic "from head to toe ... with a bag over his head." County Prosecutor Ken Casady said that Anderson died from blunt force trauma and suffocation.
Beeson later was stopped that evening by Benton Officer Michael Teague for swerving between the center line and fog line on Airlane Road and was stopped at the intersection of Dale and River streets. Teague noted that Beeson was "extremely nervous" and when asked for vehicle paperwork, Beeson's "hands were trembling and he was searching for words." When asked if he had been drinking, Beeson reportedly said his dog was the reason his driving was so bad.
Teague said when Beeson exited the vehicle, "he still seemed very nervous and he was reaching in his coat." After telling Beeson to place his hands on his head to start a weapons search, Beeson said he had a gun in his pocket, the report said. Teague said a silver handgun was found in his right rear pocket, and a criminal history search showed Beeson to be a convicted felon. Beeson was arrested that night for possession of a firearm by a certain person.
Beeson said that Wright later made bail for him to be released from the Saline County jail. When he returned to Wright's home, he said he found that Anderson was dead.
He admitted to helping Wright bury Anderson's body.
After a year-long investigation, numerous law enforcement officials served a warrant at Wright's home on Oct. 5, 2011, and discovered the bodies of Anderson and Joey Richards. Anderson was discovered buried underneath a koi pond in the backyard. A few days later, Beeson was taken into custody without incident at his place of employment in Little Rock.
Casady said Beeson had agreed to testify against Wright and "this proffer of testimony was critical in obtaining a guilty plea from Wright." Casady added that evidence had developed showing Beeson was not present at the time of the homicide and that he "did not cause Anderson's death."
"This sentence accurately reflects Beeson's role in the disposal of the body and his failure to inform authorities about the homicide and burial of Anderson," the prosecutor said.
Beeson has a lengthy arrest record, including numerous violent crimes. According to the Correction Department, Beeson was incarcerated twice — once for a second-degree murder conviction in 1992 for the death of his former brother-in-law, Randy Jack Allen. According to records, Beeson shot Allen in a vehicle during an argument at a Sonic Drive-in restaurant in Malvern. Two other people reportedly were in the vehicle with Allen, including Allen's 4-year-old daughter. Beeson was sentenced to 20 years, but was paroled after spending less than three years in prison.
Beeson violated his parole and was sent back to prison in November of 1999, but was released in September of 2000.