Alleged Nordland murderer Beckmeyer returns to court

Luciano Marano
lmarano@ptleader.com
Posted 9/30/20

The man accused of murdering his neighbor in a shooting in Nordland last month returned to Jefferson County Superior Court late last week for what was slated to be an omnibus hearing to determine …

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Alleged Nordland murderer Beckmeyer returns to court

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The man accused of murdering his neighbor in a shooting in Nordland last month returned to Jefferson County Superior Court late last week for what was slated to be an omnibus hearing to determine evidence and available testimony before scheduling a trial date.

But much of the short hearing was devoted to questions on whether a key witness to the deadly shooting — and a person who was also allegedly assaulted before the fatal shots were fired — will show up to testify when the case goes to trial.

John Paul Beckmeyer, 59, allegedly shot and killed James McDonald, 24, during a barbecue Aug. 26.

Witnesses said the shooting occurred after Beckmeyer told his girlfriend to turn down a loud radio during the barbecue and she didn’t, according to court documents. Beckmeyer then allegedly hit the woman in the face, prompting others at the gathering to come to her defense, and Beckmeyer retreated to a nearby fifth-wheel trailer where he was living, threatening to get a gun.

He then started shooting out the window of the trailer, hitting McDonald twice in the chest.

Beckmeyer was arrested shortly after the shooting and made his third appearance in court Friday, Sept. 25 by video, where ultimately it was decided the omnibus hearing would be pushed to Friday, Oct. 2 as the defense claimed additional investigation was still required.

Beckmeyer faces one charge of either first- or second-degree murder, as well as several charges of assault.

He is being held in the Jefferson County Jail and made his first court appearance Aug. 27, also by video. Beckmeyer again appeared before Superior Court Judge Keith Harper Aug. 31, where his lawyer, Richard Davies, said the defendant will claim he acted in self defense.

During his most recent court appearance last week, Beckmeyer’s lawyer raised concerns about several aspects of the investigation.

Davies said Beckmeyer’s girlfriend, a crucial witness in the case, had moved that very day to New Jersey. She had previously proven uncooperative with the defense’s requests for interviews, he added, and Davies expressed doubt the woman would make herself available to testify at trial.

The prosecution, however, said the woman had already been subpoenaed and understood her presence would be required at trial, and added that her testimony was just as valuable to the prosecution as it will be to the defense, and he said he had full confidence she would appear.

The judge concurred, and said the subpoena should be sufficient to ensure her participation.

Davies also expressed concern that in his opinion the girlfriend of McDonald, the man who was killed, had been exerting an inappropriate amount of influence over Beckmeyer’s girlfriend and had encouraged her to be difficult in her dealings with the defense.

Prosecutors said both women had said they were feeling harassed by the defense and future interviews would be arranged in cooperation with their office, at the request of the witnesses.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Ashcraft had previously said probable cause exists to believe Beckmeyer committed the crime of either first-degree murder (armed with a firearm) or second-degree murder (armed with a firearm), as well as two charges of first-degree assault (armed with firearm, domestic violence) and one charge of fourth-degree assault (domestic violence, first offense).

First-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a $50,000 fine upon conviction, plus 60 additional months if Beckmeyer is found to have been armed with a firearm at the time of the crime.

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