'I'll just leave justice to God:' Beckford sentenced 27 months in prison for manslaughter
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- After two decades, an end has come to what was a cold case for years that still leaves many without closure.
Barry Beckford was sentenced Tuesday morning to 27 months in prison after a plea deal for second-degree manslaughter for the shooting death of his wife Deborah Bailey in 1997.
"This negotiated disposition probably is not satisfactory to anybody," said Yakima County Deputy Prosecutor Steven Jackson.
But after a hung jury in his murder trial in April, prosecutors eliminated the risk of another hung jury or even an acquittal.
A heart-wrenching decision for Bailey's parents and those who knew her.
"She was a friend to all and loved being around people and helping them," said the victim's mother, Pearl Smotherman.
"I'll just leave justice to God," said her father, Carl Smotherman.
The close-knit family is leaning on strong faith to see them through, with almost a dozen relatives addressing the judge.
"It's been a struggle, but as a Christian, I forgive him" said the victim's brother, Scott Smotherman.
Found in her car with four gunshot wounds to the head, it's been a devastating loss and endless pain. The 32-year-old former pageant queen was the light of so many lives.
"She was full of life, full of love, and it's so disheartening that someone so cruel would take her from us," said the victim's aunt.
A case that still haunts authorities convinced of Beckford's guilt as well.
"The heinousness of this crime was something that gripped me," said detective Judd Towell with the Yakima County Sheriff's Office.
But the defense maintained Beckford's innocence and said a guilty plea to manslaughter was to spare the family from another trial built on circumstantial evidence.
The defense held firm that Bailey's murder was the result of a drug debt from a cocaine addiction.
"Everybody failed her," said defense attorney Adolfo Banda. "She needed help. Nobody came to her rescue."
Now, the family is coping with injustice and a sentence the judge felt uneasy handing down.
"I'm very comfortable in my belief that Mr. Beckford murdered his wife," said Yakima County Superior Court Judge Michael McCarthy.
But Beckford is a free man after two years in jail with credit for time served.
"He's walking," said the victim's cousin Laurie Paulson. "He took a precious soul from us, and it makes me sad that he's not paying for his life for hers."
"This was some degree of closure for the family and the state certainly appreciates that, and based on what they said today their faith will allow them to move forward," said prosecutor Jackson.
A juror also spoke at the sentencing and apologized that there wasn't a conviction.
Sixty witnesses took the stand during Beckford's murder trial, and despite the outcome with the plea deal prosecutors said this case needed to see a courtroom.
In addition to manslaughter, Beckford has also been convicted of tampering with a witness. He has been ordered to pay a crime victim's restitution with the amount to be determined later. Beckford will be taken to the prison in Shelton, Washington to be processed and then set free.