Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marriage, Money and Murder: Steven and Celeste Beard

Plotting Begins

Another therapist, Susan Milholland, revealed that Tarlton had a romantic problem of her own.

Milholland said Tarlton told her she had a self-destructive habit of falling passionately in love with married heterosexual women.

Tarlton dreamed of marrying Celeste, and she viewed Steven Beard as an obstacle to her happily-ever-after fantasy.

As the relationship developed, Celeste complained bitterly to Tarlton that Beard was abusive. He belittled her, taunted her and beat her down emotionally, according to Celeste. She added that she feared Beard would assault her if she threatened divorce.

The relationship left her feeling suicidal, Celeste told her lover.

Tarlton could not imagine life without Celeste, and she vowed to do anything she could to save her from the professed cruelty of Beard. Together, the women began plotting to do away with Celeste's man problem, according to Tarlton.

They came up with enough murder methods to flesh out the plots of a series of mystery novels.

For example, they tried to concoct homemade botulism by allowing food to spoil then fester. The women sprinkled the vile substance on a chili dog. Beard ate itand liked it.

They spiked his drinks with 190-proof grain alcohol, then fastened a plastic bag around his head when he passed out. They dusted his food with sleeping pills and, on one occasion, 10 ecstasy tablets. He survived it all.

The plotting became increasingly urgent in late September. Beard and his wife were scheduled to travel to Europe. Celeste dreaded the trip, and she convinced Tarltonin her finest drama queen high dudgeonthat her life hung in the balance.

"She came over and was just hysterical, beside herself," Tarlton told CBS. "She said, 'I'll never survive this trip.' I wanted to help her."

The women came up with the shotgun solution.

Tarlton told investigators that Celeste set it all up. Beard was asleep, doors were open, and Celeste was in another wing of the house.

Tarlton slipped in, fired a single shot in the dark, and slipped out unnoticed.

The scheme didn't have a prayer of working, of course, since half of Austin knew that the victim's wife had a lesbian lover who owned a shotgun.

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