ORD - - It's the kind of stuff television shows like 48 Hours Mystery and Cold Case Files are made of. A woman is last seen leaving a small town bar; her body is found in a shallow grave three years later. The police have a suspect, but seem unable to gather enough evidence to make an arrest. The case goes cold for more than 20 years. Then, new evidence, new witnesses, and the suspect is in custody.
That is the all-too-real scene being played out in Valley County, in the case of then 31-year-old Cathy Beard of Ord. Beard had last been seen leaving an Ord bar with John R. Oldson, a former Ord resident, May 31, 1989. In April 1992, Beard's body was discovered in a pasture near Ord.
Oldson, now 45-years-old, was arrested Jan. 24, 2012, near his home in Randolph, Mo. The next day he agreed to waive extradition back to Nebraska to stand trial for the murder of Cathy Beard. Monday, Oldson made his first appearance in Valley County Court.
Though the case had gone cold for more than two decades, it was never far from the minds of local law enforcement officials, including Valley County Attorney Glenn Clark. According to a press release from the Valley County Sheriff's Department, Clark directed newly elected Valley County Sheriff Casey Hurlburt to re-examine the case and conduct an extensive investigation.
Valley County Court documents indicate several witnesses who had seen Beard and Oldson leave the Some Place Else Tavern together the night she disappeared were interviewed in late 2010, as was Minnie Oldson, former wife of the accused. While Hurlburt confirms that new evidence and witnesses led to Oldson's arrest, he would not elaborate due to the ongoing investigation.
According to court records, several witnesses have said Oldson seems to have a fascination with women's abdomens, and was convicted of an assault on a Burwell convenience store clerk about two months after Beard's disappearance. He received one year in jail in that incident. Oldson was also later convicted of sticking needles into the stomachs of his two step-daughters. In the autopsy report of Beard in 1992, it was noted that marks were found on her body indicating blunt force trauma to her ribs and cuts to her abdominal region.
Court records also include several statements by witnesses interviewed by police in which Oldson reportedly has a terrible temper and difficulty managing his anger. Those interviews refer to a number of specific statements allegedly made by Oldson that gave the witnesses reason to believe he may have been involved in Beard's murder.
In late 2011, Beard's body was exhumed and DNA evidence was gathered. With advancements in DNA technologies over the past 20 years, it was hoped this new evidence might finally bring a killer to justice.
First degree murder charges were filed against Oldson Jan. 19, 2012, and Valley County Judge Alan Brodbeck issued a warrant for his arrest Jan. 23. Sheriff Hurlburt traveled to Missouri, and working in conjunction with the Clay County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Bob Boydston, the arrest was made without incident. Hurlburt told the media Oldson did not seemed surprised to see them.
Media sources in both Nebraska and Missouri have reported that investigations are currently taking place involving a possible connection of Oldson to additional cases. Sheriff Hurlburt did confirm that to the Ord Quiz, and stated that the Valley County Sheriff's Office is in contact with agencies in Missouri and Kansas involving two homicides in which Oldson is considered a suspect.
In his hearing Monday in Valley County, Oldson requested an attorney be appointed him by the court, indicating he could not afford to hire his own attorney. Mike Borders of Broken Bow was appointed to represent Oldson.
During the hearing, Valley County Attorney Glenn Clark asked Judge Ronald Olberding for a bond review. Oldson's bond had been set at $1 million, however Clark cited several reasons for concern for public safety if Oldson was released on bond. Olberding agreed and ordered Oldson be held without bond at the Hall County Corrections Center in Grand Island.
Oldson's charge of 1st Degree Murder can be charged as a Class I or Class IA felony. A Class I conviction results in the death penalty, while a Class IA conviction results in life imprisonment. A preliminary hearing has been set for Oldson for March 5, 2012, at 1 p.m. in Valley County Court.