Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marriage, Money and Murder: Steven and Celeste Beard

A Troubled Teen

Celeste's marriage to Cole Johnson was her fifth trip to the altar.

One could pick nits over the wisdom of each of the blessed events. But without question the last would prove to be the most unwise.

Celeste was raised in Ventura County, Calif., one of four adopted children of Edwin and Nancy Johnson.

It was not a childhood filled with Golden State sunshine.

She told intimates that she was sexually abused by her adoptive father from age 4 to 12. Her adoptive mother was psychologically unstable and was institutionalized several times.

She blamed the abuse for problems later in life.

Once, during a conversation that was recorded by her daughter Kristina, she said, "Do you know what it feels like when you're 4 years oldyou aren't even in kindergarten? Do you know what that does to you?"

Kristina Beard
Kristina Beard

She said she was later sexually abused by an older adoptive brother, as well.

Celeste attempted suicide during puberty.

She got pregnant at age 17, married another teenager, Craig Bratcher, and gave birth to twin girls, Kristina and Jennifer.

Jennifer Beard
Jennifer Beard

It was a tempestuous, brief marriage that included bouts of physical abuse and restraining orders.

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