By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
By Nina Harrelson, Weekend News Anchor/Reporter - bio | email
After 24 years, the search for Cathy Beard's killer has reached a conclusion. A jury has found John Oldson guilty of second degree murder in the death of the Ord woman in 1989.
Oldson whispered to his mother as he left the courtroom, having been found guilty.
"Yeah, I heard," she told him as he was escorted by officers.
The jury returned a verdict 22 and a half hours after they got the case. But for 24 years Cathy Beard's family has endured this.
Now, they find some peace.
"To put closure to this entire years–long journey," older brother Bill Beard said.
He said he investigators never gave up, from Sheriff Casey Hurlburt who re–opened the case to retired State Trooper Larry Karschner.
"He told me he still had Cathy's picture on his desk and I knew they were not going to give up. Not going to give up. I was very thankful, and thankful to this day," Beard said.
"The law enforcement team, from 1989 to now," Hurlburt said, as he paused to told back tears. "There was a lot of officers that put their heart and soul into this and that's why we're here today, not about us, not about me, about Cathy Beard and that's what we're all here for, justice for Cathy."
It was a difficult case to prove. John Oldson was the last person to see Beard.
Prosecutors say his hormones got the best of him and he couldn't take no for an answer, as they went in an alley behind the Someplace Else bar in Ord.
But from there, it's still not known how Beard died and how her body ended up in a ravine where it was found three years later.
Despite the lack of physical evidence, and the 24 year gap, police say the jury did the right thing.
Hurlburt said, "We got an awesome system and that's what we're all about."
Oldson twiddled his fingers and sat back in his chair as the foreman handed in the verdict, which was read by Howard County Clerk Marge Palmberg.
By 2:10 Friday afternoon, word came that the jury had returned. By 2:20, the hearing was over. From there, Oldson was led away by the Valley County Sheriff in a pickup as his family looked on.
That's a stark contrast to the Beard family, as they embraced at the end of a decades–long ordeal.
Bill Beard said, "We felt this trial was less about John Oldson and more about Cathy. She was our sister and she went through a terrible, terrible ordeal no one should."
The crime committed 24 years ago played out over the span of two weeks at the Howard County Courthouse.
Attorneys on both sides declined to comment on camera but said the case was professionally argued. In the end, jurors felt Oldson was guilty.
Next up – sentencing on April first where he could get from 20 years to life.
Judge Karin Noakes ordered Oldson to comply with a pre–sentence investigation, before deciding what penalty to hand down.