When the police found Kim Nees’ body floating in the Poplar River on June 16, 1979, they suspected her friends might have something to do with her death. Interestingly, her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Barry Beach, was also questioned but ultimately allowed to walk free. ‘Dateline: Whispers in a Small Town’ takes the viewer through Kim Nees’s horrifying murder and even showcases how the investigation led to Barry Beach almost four years after the incident. Let’s delve into the details surrounding the crime and find out where Barry Beach is at present, shall we?
Who Is Barry Beach?
Barry Beach was a high school graduate around the time of Kim’s murder. Like Kim, Barry dreamt of a life in the city and could not wait to get out of Poplar, Montana. Moreover, even though he had previously dated Kim’s sister, Pam, the two remained on good terms, and people who knew Barry described him as a happy-go-lucky teenager who loved making new friends in life. Unfortunately, Barry had a challenging life despite his jovial nature since his parents were separated, and his father lived with his stepmother in Monroe, Louisiana. Still, people had no idea about the horrific case he would get involved in shortly after.
Kim Ness went missing on June 16, 1979, and the police soon found her abandoned truck near the Poplar River. At first glance, it seemed like someone was brutally attacked inside the vehicle since the insides were covered in blood. Moreover, investigators also noticed a trail of blood going toward the river, and they followed it to reach the body. From the looks of it, Kim was beaten before being dragged to the Poplar River, and the subsequent autopsy supported this theory since it determined that the victim was bludgeoned to death with a blunt and heavy object. Moreover, medical examiners also noticed multiple bruises on the victim’s body, which hinted at a crime of passion.
Interestingly, Barry Beach was questioned during the initial investigation, but since he had no connection to the crime, the police had to let him go. Moreover, the case saw no progress in the years that followed, and investigators feared that it might soon go cold. However, fate had other plans as Barry was living in Monroe, Louisiana, with his father and stepmother in 1983 when he was accused of helping his step-sister skip school. Besides, during the investigation, his stepmother mentioned that Barry was a suspect in a 1979 murder, which piqued the detectives’ interests.
At that time, police officers in Louisiana were investigating three unsolved murders, and they wondered if Barry was involved in the same. Hence, they put him under tough interrogation, and although Barry initially insisted on his innocence and denied being involved, officers kept pressurizing him until he confessed to all four murders. Yet, quite surprisingly, the police soon realized that Barry was not in Louisiana during the three unsolved murders, and although that cleared him of those accusations, he was still charged with Kim Nees’ murder.
Where Is Barry Beach Now?
When produced in court, Barry pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and claimed he was coerced to complain by the police officers. However, the jury saw it differently, and they convicted him of first-degree murder before sentencing him to 100 years in prison without a chance of parole in 1984. Subsequently, Barry’s petitions to overturn his conviction were denied in court, and he almost gave up on the hope of clearing his name.
At such a time, Barry’s case was picked up by the Centurion Ministries, and they conducted an independent investigation before presenting a pretty compelling case. While the Centurion Ministries found several witnesses who claimed Barry was innocent, they even insisted that Kim was driving around with several of her friends on the day of her murder. Besides, apart from Barry’s sister testifying that he was asleep at the time of the murder, the organization also brought new information to light and mentioned that two of Kim’s school friends, namely Dottie Sue “Sissy” Atkinson and Joann Jackson, had confessed to killing the teenager with a tire iron.
However, readers should take this claim with a grain of salt since both women have refuted the accusations. Nevertheless, the newfound information was enough to cause doubt in a judge’s mind, and he overturned Barry’s murder conviction in 2011 before giving him a right to a retrial. Yet, Barry still had a long way to go since the Montana Supreme Court reinstated the original judgment on May 14, 2013, and he had to return to a life behind bars. Following the reinstatement, Barry’s lawyers submitted numerous petitions for clemency, as well as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, but they were all denied in court.
Yet, just as Barry was about to lose hope all over again, the then-governer of Montana, Steve Bullock, reviewed the case and decided to grant him executive clemency. This reduced Barry’s sentence to time served, along with an additional ten years of probation in 2015, and he was finally able to walk out of prison. Reports mention that following Barry’s release, he moved in with his father, and the two have built up a wonderful life together. However, since Barry is still convicted of Kim’s murder and serving probation, he remains confined to the state of Montana.