Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marriage, Money and Murder: Steven and Celeste Beard

Guts Blown Out

Steven Beard, a retired television executive, was startled awake on Oct. 2, 1999, to find his innards lying where his belly should have been.

Conscious but bewildered, he reached for a phone on his nightstand and dialed 911 for Austin, Texas.

Steven Beard
Steven Beard

"I need an ambulance," said Beard, 75. "My guts just jumped out of my stomach. They blew outyeah, they blew out of my stomach. They're lying on my stomach."

"OK," said the 911 operator. "They're laying on your stomach?"

"I'm in awful pain," Beard said.

"How did this happen?"

"It just happened. I woke up. I just woke up."

After another brief exchange, the operator said, "I'm having a hard time figuring out what happened."

So was Beard.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "I've never had this happen before."

As sheriff's deputies and an ambulance rushed toward the house, Beard had the presence of mind to ask the operator to phone his young wife, Celeste, who was sleeping in another wing of the 5,300-square foot mini-mansion in pricey Toro Canyon west of Austin.

But the jangling phone did not rouse the woman.

The house was locked tight when help arrived. Rescuers peered through windows until they spotted Beard bleeding in bed. They broke a patio door to get inside.

EMS personnel sized up the wound and surmised an incision from a hernia operation had failed. But as they hoisted the 300-pound man onto a stretcher, Travis County Deputy Sheriff Russell Thompson found something on the bedroom floor that explained Beard's intestinal blowout.

It was a freshly fired shell casing from a 20-gauge shotgun.

Beard was flown by medical helicopter to Brackenridge Hospital in Austin.

Celeste Beard
Celeste Beard

His wife and her twin teenage daughters, whom Beard had recently adopted, followed him to the hospital in a police car. The girls were joined there by their boyfriends, and the five began a waiting room vigil.

Paul Knight, a sheriff's investigator, was sent to the hospital to question them.

He posed the query that every homicide investigator must ask the loved ones of a victim of an unsolved violent crime:

Any idea who would have done this?

Christopher Doose, the boyfriend of one of the twins, spoke up:

"How about that crazy Tracey?"

Dominic Dunne's Power, Priviledge and Justice

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