Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marriage, Money and Murder: Steven and Celeste Beard

Odd Coincidence

Investigators reasoned that the circumstances of the shooting were too odd to be a coincidence.

A woman who was in love with Celeste Beard had murdered her husband.

Common sense would suggest that the widow Beard had played a role.

But Tracey Tarlton was not snitching.

Prosecutors dangled offers for plea bargains if she would talk, but she sat mute, marking time in jail month after month.

Tracey Tarlton taken to court
Tracey Tarlton taken to court

A grand jury called to hear evidence in the case was kept active for more than a year after Beard died because prosecutors hoped Tarlton would have a change of heart and implicate Celeste Beard.

They finally gave up, and Tarlton was indicted for murder on Feb. 16, 2001.

And then came the unexpected.

Tarlton had a revelation, but it had nothing to do with anything proffered by prosecutors.

Sitting in jail and reading an Austin newspaper, she saw an item about her beloved Celeste.

The widow Beard had gotten over her loss and had quietly wed Cole Johnson, a bartender and musician in a part-time bar band, in a lovely private ceremony amid the mountain splendor of Aspen, Colo.

Dumped for a man, Tarlton began to understand that she had been duped.

The enraged woman asked to meet with prosecutors.

She spoke the words they had been waiting more than 18 months to hear: "I did it for Celeste."

Dominic Dunne's Power, Priviledge and Justice

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