The Investigation

The Investigation by the Police

As the murder of Kim Nees occurred on the Fort Peck Reservation, the FBI initially took charge of the investigation and in the month that followed, virtually all of the information that emerged was funneled through the Bureau’s two-man field office in Glasgow, Montana. Within a few days of the murder, lead agent Brent Warberg interviewed more than three dozen witnesses, oftentimes in the presence of Dean Mahlum, Undersheriff of the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department.

For several days following the murder, authorities focused on two primary suspects, both former classmates of the victim who graduated from Poplar High School several years ahead of her. One was Albert Gooch Kirn, a Native American and former all state guard on the Poplar High School basketball team. Investigators found out that Kirn had a reputation for heavy drinking, fighting and forcing his affections on younger women. In addition, 17-year old Joanne Jackson reported to the FBI two days after the murder that a boy who lived across the Poplar River from the murder scene had heard Kim Nees scream, “No, Gooch, no.” While Joanne Jackson initially declined to identify the source, she ultimately claimed to the police she had heard the story from Caleb Gorneau. Gorneau insisted to the investigators he told Jackson no such thing.

The other police suspect was Kim Nees’ boyfriend, Greg Norgaard. It appears that the interest in Norgaard stemmed primarily from the knowledge of investigators that he had a falling out with Kim just before the murder. Fingerprints lifted from the inside of Nees’ pickup truck and the bloody palm print on the door matched neither Norgaard nor Kirn. The investigators focused their attention elsewhere.

Over the course of the investigation, either immediately following the murder, or in subsequent years, each of the following pieces of eyewitness testimony and evidence have been brought to light. Any one of these cast doubt on Barry’s guilt. Unfortunately, the jury heard none of this evidence:

• A group of people were with Kim at the time of the murder.

Richard Holen, driving home from a local bar, observed Kim Nees in her father’s pickup truck heading down toward the park near the time of her murder accompanied by a cab full of people. This statement clearly cast doubt on Barry’s story that he was alone with Kim at the time of the murder.

• Others have been specifically implicated in the crime.

Mike Longtree, a local resident has told several people that he was present at the time of the murder. He has told two different people that he witnessed Kim Nees’ murder by several Native American girls, not by Barry Beach. Though Longtree has refused to testify, these two Longtree confidants provided sworn testimony subsequent to the initial trial. Maude Greyhawk, a local resident also confessed to having been present when Kim Nees was murdered and to having kicked her during the course of the assault that led to her death. These witnesses put Maude Kirn (maiden name Greyhawk), Sissy Atkinson, Joanne Jackson, and Jordis Ferguson at the crime scene and implicate them in the murder.

• The bloody palm print isn’t Barry’s or Kim’s.

The jury was never told that the bloody palm print found on the passenger side door of the pickup truck belonged to neither Kim Nees nor to Barry Beach. Since the original trial, the state has claimed that the print was made by a passerby, not by someone actively involved in the crime.

• Barry’s testimony is inconsistent with the facts of the case.

The jury never heard that large parts of Barry Beach’s alleged confession, including his description of Kim Nees’ clothes, his description of having punched and choked Kim Nees, his description of having confronted Kim Nees outside the driver’s door of the truck, the use of a crescent wrench as just one of the weapons and numerous other details that were in fact not true.