Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marriage, Money and Murder: Steven and Celeste Beard

Crazy Tracey

"That crazy Tracey," as the teenager put it, was Tracey Nolyne Tarlton.

In the seven months before her husband was shot, Celeste Beard had become very friendly with Tarlton, manager of a bookstore.

Tracey with Celeste Beard
Tracey with Celeste Beard

Tarlton, a heavyset and plain 35-year-old, had led a rather troubled life, with bouts of narcotics and alcohol abuse, an attempted suicide and psychological problems.

The daughter of a respected Fort Worth lawyer, she graduated from Texas A&M in 1986 with a degree in biology. She worked in several unfulfilling natural resources jobs with the government before hiring on in 1994 at BookPeople, in downtown Austin.

She found her place there, working 60-hour weeks at a place that attracted the most eclectic elements of a very eclectic city. Tarlton was a lesbian, and she felt comfortable sharing her sexuality with the circle of open-minded friends and colleagues she developed at BookPeople.

She excelled in the job and soon was promoted to manager. She earned regional notice in the book world, appearing on C-SPAN to talk about books and turning up in the newspapers from time to time with comments about a new release or book trends.

But in February 1999 Tarlton suffered a very public nervous breakdown at work, shrieking obscenely and threatening violence.

With the encouragement of family and friends, she checked in to St. David's Pavilion, an Austin mental health facility, to try to regain her balance.

Dominic Dunne's Power, Priviledge and Justice

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