OV man convicted for 2008 killing - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

OV man convicted for 2008 killing

Paul Beam found guilty of first-degree murder

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Posted: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 1:32 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

There was no cheering or applause when the jury rendered a guilty verdict last week — just silence.

Oro Valley resident Paul Beam was convicted of first-degree murder in Pima County Superior Court on Nov. 25, for the strangling death of Lisa Berrie, his girlfriend of more than three years.

The couple lived in an apartment on Oracle Road with two children — a boy from Berrie's previous relationship, and a girl the two had together. Both children were home sleeping the night of Aug. 12, 2008, when Beam killed their mother.

Beam never denied killing Berrie; instead, he and his lawyers attempted to make a case that he committed manslaughter, a lesser offense that carries a lesser penalty.

"Since civilization began, relationships between men and women have evoked profound emotions," defense attorney Darlene Edminson-O'Brien told jurors during her closing arguments.

It was profound emotion and fear that Berrie would leave him that caused Beam to beat and choke the life out of his girlfriend. The act was spontaneous, born out of fear of losing Berrie and his daughter, not planned as prosecutors had argued, Edminson-O'Brien contended.

"Then he's confronted with losing everything all over, and he snaps," Edminson-O'Brien said.

Throughout the case, defense attorneys tried to paint a sympathetic picture of Beam, telling a life story not unlike anyone in the courtroom.

Beam was born in San Jose, Calif., but grew up primarily in Portland, Ore. As an adult he worked with his father at a real estate company and later became a tradesman, working in the commercial flooring business.

He spoke of a girl, Bridgette, whom he met and fell in love with. The two moved in together and soon had a baby.

Then one day, it all ended. Bridgette left and took their two-month old baby with her.

"She left a two-sentence note while I was at work," a tearful Beam said. "I was completely devastated."

Beam described how his life started to unravel after the break-up.

"I lost my job. I couldn't focus," he said.

That was 2001. In 2004, attempting to put his life back together, he moved to Tucson with his father. He got a job bagging groceries at Bashas' grocery store. Berrie, too, worked at the grocery store.

Beam said the two started out as friends, engaging in the occasional conversation at work. Later, Berrie told him she needed a roommate. He moved into her two-bedroom apartment in Tucson. Her son lived there, too.

It wasn't long, Beam said, before he and Berrie became romantic. A daughter soon followed.

Their life together was good, according to Beam, not the troubled arrangement portrayed in earlier testimony given by Berrie's family and friends.

Edminson-O'Brien tried to cast doubt on the testimony of prosecution witnesses. Berrie's parents and friends said she was afraid of Beam. Her parents said they had offered to send their daughter and grandchildren airline tickets to come live with them in Delaware.

Berrie's friend, Amanda Evans, told the jury that she heard Beam threaten to kill Berrie if she tried to leave him.

"That is absolutely not true; that never happened," Beam told jurors.

He described their relationship as normal, with the occasional disputes that many couples have. But the relationship was solid, according to Beam's testimony.

He depicted the move to Oro Valley in early 2008 as a big step in their relationship. They had a bigger, nicer apartment and he was promoted to manager of the produce department at the Bashas' in Catalina.

But, according to Beam, that all changed the night of Aug. 12, 2008.

He had picked up their daughter after work and brought the toddler home. The two had dinner and he put the child to bed while he waited for Berrie to get home with her son.

When she came home, she was angry, Berrie told the jury. She seemed perturbed that he hadn't made dinner for her and her son and was unmoved when Beam told her he had fixed her car, which broke down the day before. He tried to comfort her, but she pushed him away. He attempted to embrace her, but she punched him in the chest, Beam said.

"She was very upset," Beam testified.

He said Berrie went to their bedroom closet and began to grab her things, apparently ready to leave him.

"She told me to get out of the way, that she was leaving and would take the kids and that I would never see Kaitlynn again," Beam said. The dispute escalated, Beam said, and Berrie grew angrier.

"She said that I wasn't worth anything but a one-night stand," he said.

After that, Beam said they started pushing and shoving — him trying to prevent her from getting her things from the closet, and her intent on forcing her way past him.

Then, Beam said, they fell onto the bed and rolled on the floor with Berrie landing on top. The fight escalated.

"I remember being kicked," Beam said. "I don't know what really happened."

What happened after that remains a blur, Beam testified. He said he doesn't remember hitting Berrie, though autopsy photos presented to jurors showed a bloodied and beaten Berrie. A medical examiner testified that her nose was broken and she had bruises on her body, face and neck.

"I remember looking down at her and seeing my hands around her neck," Beam said. Then, Berrie stopped moving. Beam said he was struck with confusion, unaware of what had just happened. He called his dad and told him to come over. When his father saw Berrie's lifeless body on the bathroom floor, he called for help.

Deputy Pima County Attorney Nicol Green worked at poking holes in Beam's account of the killing, questioning his recollections and asking why he moved Berrie's body to the bathroom.

"Your memory gets fuzzy the minute you're on top of her?" Green asked.

"Yes," Beam replied.

Green ramped up her questioning.

"As you sit here today, you don't remember punching her in the face?" Green said.

Again, Beam replied "No."

Green later asked why Beam moved Berrie's body into the bathroom and shower, to which he said he hoped to somehow help her.

Green persisted, asking if Beam checked for a pulse or breathing. He answered "no" to both questions.

Perhaps the most damning part of Green's cross-examination came when she asked about how far away Beam's father lived from the apartment. Beam said his dad lived at least 10 miles away, a 20-minute drive. In the interval from calling his dad and the time he arrived, Beam told the jury he sat next to Berrie on the bathroom floor and cried.

Green asked if he called 9-1-1, went to a neighbor for help or attempted to do C.P.R.? Beam did nothing, he explained.

"Other than sitting there and calling your dad, you did absolutely nothing to help her?" Green asked.

"I couldn't function," Beam said. "I needed help."

Green ended her cross-examination with one simple poignant question.

"You killed Lisa Berrie, didn't you?" she asked.

"I did," Beam responded.

The jury deliberated for a few hours on Tuesday and until after 4 p.m. Wednesday before returning a verdict of guilty on the charge of first-degree murder.

Sheriff's deputies led Beam silently away. He'll be held in Pima County Adult Detention Center until he's sentenced on Jan. 25. He could face at least 25 years or life in prison.

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