Murder trial of OV resident under way - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Murder trial of OV resident under way

State says Paul Beam planned killing of girlfriend

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Posted: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 1:32 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

There was no argument going into the trial whether the defendant was guilty of a crime.

Even before the trial of Paul Beam, 36, began in the courtroom of Judge Clark W. Munger in Pima County Superior Court, public defender Darlene Edminson-O'Brien told prospective jurors that her client had killed his girlfriend Lisa Berrie in their Oro Valley apartment while their two children slept in the next room.

"This case is not about who caused Lisa Berrie's death, Paul Beam caused Lisa Berrie's death," Edminson-O'Brien said during her opening arguments.

Berrie was 25 years old.

Edminson-O'Brien wants jurors to accept that Beam acted in a passionate rage that night in 2008, that he lost control when he beat and strangled Berrie, his girlfriend of more than three years and the mother of his daughter. The objective: To convince the jury that Beam's crime doesn't warrant a first-degree murder conviction, but rather that he should receive a lesser conviction of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

On Aug. 12, 2008, Bill Beam, the father of Paul Beam, made a 9-1-1 call from his car in the parking lot of an apartment complex near Oracle and Hardy roads. His son had called the father, asking him to come over, quick.

The elder Beam told the operator that his son's girlfriend was lying motionless on the floor of the bathroom in the couple's upstairs apartment. Bill Beam told the 9-1-1 operator that he thought he detected the faint signs of pulse on Berrie.

When police arrived on the scene at 9:12 p.m., they saw Paul Beam on the landing outside the front door of the apartment he and Berrie shared. Officers called to him, telling him they wanted to speak with him, but he quickly turned and ran into the apartment, bolting the door behind him.

Officers then began to pound on the door, imploring Paul Beam to come out. From inside, they heard him say, "Everything's O.K., you can go," according to police reports.

Inside the apartment, everything was not O.K. Lisa Berrie lay dying, if not already dead, on the bathroom floor.

Beam opened the door a few minutes later. An officer grabbed him and put handcuffs on him while another searched the two-bedroom apartment. They asked Beam if there was anyone else in the apartment, to which he replied, "No, just my kids."

When the officers searched the apartment, they found two children asleep in one bedroom. In the bathroom, they saw Berrie lying face up with her head and shoulders in the shower and the lower portion of her body strewn over the floor. The bathroom floor was flooded with water and Berrie was soaked. They moved her into the hallway and began C.P.R.

Shortly after, an ambulance arrived. Paramedics took over life-saving efforts and transported Berrie to University Medical Center. Doctors pronounced her dead at 10:15 p.m.

Deputy Pima County Attorney Nicole Green has endeavored to convince the jury that the scene at the apartment that night wasn't the aftermath of an argument gone too far, but rather the planned outcome Paul Beam had conceived after Berrie threatened to take the children and leave him.

"She was going to leave him — he wasn't going to let that happen. She was going to take his daughter — he wasn't going to let that happen," Green said. "He took his two hands around her neck and strangled her to death."

Beam and Berrie had a daughter together, 3-year-old Kaitlynn. Berrie also had a son from a previous relationship, 8-year-old Jeremy.

As proof, Greene called forth several Oro Valley police officers who responded to the apartment the night of Berrie's killing. The offices were asked to describe the physical state of the apartment, which they portrayed as clean and organized. Officers also described how the children remained asleep in their bedroom throughout Berrie's beating and strangulation.

Greene has tried to paint a portrait of Beam as calm and remorseless.

"Very quiet, very emotionless," was how Oro Valley Police Officer Forrest Cook described Paul Beam the night of the killing.

Upon cross examination, Beam defense attorney Matei Tarail asked Cook if other people he'd seen in highly stressful situations composed themselves like Beam. Cook replied that he had seen people display a wide range of emotions while in stressful situations.

Police also testified that a later search of the apartment turned up a plastic bag plugging the toilet filled with a red-liquid substance. The bathroom also showed signs of blood on the sink, toilet, floor and shower when treated with a chemical formula that glows blue when it touches blood.

Bill Beam also testified on the first day of the trial. He described his son as normally calm and never prone to fits of hysteria. On the night of Berrie's death, Bill told the county attorney, his son appeared out of sorts. His eyes were red and he appeared to have been crying, he said.

"He looked distraught, he didn't look hysterical," Bill answered in response to Green's questioning.

The elder Beam described how his son told him that night that he and Berrie had had a fight. The father consoled his son, telling him that he and Berrie could talk it through.

"'No, we got in a big fight and she's in the bathroom,'" Bill said his son told him as the two sat in the living room of the apartment.

The men then walked to bathroom, where Bill said he saw Berrie on the floor. He check for a pulse, then reached for his cell phone. Realizing he left his phone in the car, he went to parking lot to call for help. He waited there until police arrived.

The state further tried to make a case for premeditation when Berrie's friend and colleague Amanda Evans took the stand. Evans told the jury that during a telephone conversation with Berrie shortly before she was killed, the two joked about running away together and finding jobs at Disney World in Florida.

She said Paul Beam angrily broke in on the call, saying, "If she left she would be killed," Evans said.

Upon cross-examination, Evans revealed that Beam's voice was muffled and difficult to hear. Defense lawyers also questioned why Evans never disclosed the threat during interviews with police. Evans said she didn't remember what she told police.

"You never said anything about Paul Beam saying anything like what you are testifying to today?" Edminson-O'Brien asked.

Defense lawyers showed interview transcripts to Evans in which she told investigators about the conversation months after the killing.

But County Attorney Green countered.

"Did you hear the defendant on the phone make the threat you referenced earlier?" Green asked.

Evans replied simply, "Yes."

The state's two final witnesses were Berrie's parents, Marc and Linda Berrie. The couple told the jury that Berrie's son Jeremy had spent most of the summer of 2008 with them at their Delaware home. He returned home about a week before his mother was killed.

The state rested its case on Friday, Nov. 27. The trial was scheduled to resume on Tuesday, Dec. 1, when the defense begins to present its case. Paul and Bill Beam are the only witnesses the defense planned to call for testimony.

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