Many of you will recall my two-part story earlier this year about David and Jennifer Beaird, the Warrenton couple whose two children were killed last Labor Day when a drunk plowed into the back of their car on I-70 in Blue Springs.
Today, I spoke with David, who was left paralyzed from the chest down, and he told me about a development in the case.
A few weeks ago, he said, the Jackson County prosecutor’s office informed him and Jennifer that prosecutors had reached a plea agreement with the defendant, 61-year-old James L. Green of Odessa. The deal, subject to the Beairds’ approval, was for a 25-year sentence, with Green having to serve a minimum of 80 percent, or 20 years.
The Beairds thought about it for a couple of days and then called the prosecutor’s office and accepted the deal.
Green, who has three prior DUI convictions, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder (murder, rather than manslaughter, because of the aggravating circumstance of intoxication) and two counts of assault. He has been in the Jackson County Regional Correctional Center since the crash.
Killed upon impact were 13-year-old Gavin and 7-year-old Chloe. They were seated in the back of the Beairds’ car when Green plowed into them while they were stuck in eastbound traffic near the Adams Dairy Parkway exit. Green told police he had been looking at his phone, thumbing through his music list and that his car was on cruise control.
David said he didn’t know the exact correlation of charges and sentencing but that the deal was for a total of 25 years. He said it was his understanding Green would formally enter the plea in June, when Green is next scheduled to appear in court. (I have a call into a spokesman with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office to see if the spokesman will verify what David told me.)
Although a longer sentence might seem more appropriate, 20 years may well be a life sentence for Green. “He’s in his early 60s and in poor health,” David said.
Poor health would be understandable, given that he’s probably been an alcoholic for more than 25 years…His first DUI conviction came in 1991 in Jackson County. The others were in 1997 and 2009.
When I visited them in February, the Beairds (pronounced Beard) were planning to sell their Warrenton home and move to upstate New York, the area that was home to Jennifer’s family for many years.
They have put their home up for sale, but David, who is 40, said they were now leaning toward moving to Myrtle Beach, SC, partly because the warm climate might make life easier for him. Jennifer’s mother, Kathy Gordon, who has been living with them in Warrenton, would continue living with them wherever they go.
Jennifer, 38, is still managing the H&R Block tax preparation office in Warrenton and will continue to work long hours for the next couple of weeks, through the end of tax season. After that, the couple will focus on selling the house and preparing to move.
David said a recent trip to visits relatives in Missouri’s Bootheel served as something of an experiment on how he could negotiate logistical challenges. It went well and gave him a shot of confidence in his ability to function relatively normally “away from the comforts of home.”
Asked how he was coping overall, he said, “slow and steady.” To help pass time, he has taken up drawing and sketching.
“I try to stay real busy and not think about things,” he said.
Here are the links to my two earlier stories on this case.