CLOSER LOOK: Manslaughter guilty plea leaves Beckford virtually a free man
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- A Naches man accused of killing his wife 20 years ago is now waiting for his sentence after admitting his guilt Wednesday.
Barry Beckford pleaded guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge for the shooting death of his wife Deborah Bailey. Beckford was initially charged with first-degree murder, but there was no conviction from a deadlocked jury in his recent trial.
The Naches-Wenas grade was the scene of a gruesome murder 20 years ago - a deadly turn of events one fateful night in February 1997.
With four gunshots to the head, the lifeless body of 32-year-old Deborah Bailey was found in her car.
It’s still a chilling case for Detective Sergeant Mike Russell of the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, who was first on the scene.
“It was tragic - a young mother who had been gunned down mercilessly,” said Sgt. Russell.
Bailey's husband Barry Beckford was charged with first-degree murder in 2015. But his recent trial built on circumstantial evidence - with no gun or witnesses - left a jury unable to come to a unanimous verdict. Eight said guilty, four said innocent.
It left prosecutors at a crossroads.
They initially chose to pursue a retrial for murder, then decided on a plea deal.
“There are costs to potentially going forward with another trial, and I'm not just speaking financial costs,” said Yakima County Prosecutor Joe Brusic.
Brusic said retrial could mean another hung jury or even acquittal. He said taking the case to another county was also not worth the risk, time, and financial cost.
“We also talked to the jurors and we made a decision that we wanted to engage in negotiations,” said Brusic.
Negotiations that led to Beckford's guilty plea to second-degree manslaughter, which carries a standard 21 to 27 months in prison based on 1996 law. Prosecutors are seeking the top range of that sentencing.
But with about 28 months in jail already served, Beckford is virtually a free man.
“He'll be processed through the Department of Corrections, and then subsequent to that processing, be released most likely with credit for time served,” said Brusic.
Leaving many in the community asking whether justice was served.
“It is at least a degree of accountability to bring some semblance of justice to the victim's family,” said Sgt. Russell.
Beckford is expected to be sentenced Tuesday, May 15.
Prosecutor Brusic said Beckford will be processed at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton and then most likely set free.