Witness, Reporter Claim Harassment in Barry Beach Case

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – A Montana man who testified on behalf of Barry Beach and a newspaper reporter who covered the story of Beach’s efforts to seek a new trial in a 1979 killing say they have been threatened, especially since Beach was released from prison earlier this month.

Kevin Hall, of Great Falls, testified at an evidentiary hearing in August that a former neighbor, Dottie Sue “Sissy” Atkinson, repeatedly told him that she played a role in the beating death of Kim Nees on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Atkinson has denied the accusation.

Hall told the Great Falls Tribune that he has been harassed, called a “snitch” and that his truck has been repeatedly vandalized in recent weeks.

Fort Peck Journal reporter Louis Montclair, of Poplar, said he received a text message threatening him with assault and sexual assault after Beach was freed while awaiting a new trial. Beach had been serving a 100-year prison sentence without the possibility of parole.

Hall was one of several witnesses who testified this summer as Beach sought a new trial. Beach confessed to the crime four years after Nees was killed but has since said the confession was false and coerced. He has long maintained that jealous teenage girls were the actual killers and Beach’s defense presented several witnesses who testified that various women acknowledged over the years to being a part to the killing.

District Judge E. Wayne Phillips found the testimony of Hall and others believable and on Nov. 24 ordered a new trial. On Dec. 7, Phillips released Beach on his own recognizance pending that trial.

That’s when the threats accelerated, Montclair and Hall said.

Montclair, 28, said he received the threatening text message shortly after putting the paper out early on Dec. 9. And in weeks since, he said he has heard people in Poplar make threats directed at Beach.

“I’ve been getting a lot of calls and text messages and tips saying a group of people in town are telling anyone who’ll listen that Barry’s guilty,” Montclair told the Missoulian. “And (they say that) if he shows up in town, they’ll kill him.”

Beach told the Missoulian earlier this month that he has no concerns for his safety, in part because he’s living in Billings.

Hall said vandals have smashed the windows and slashed the tires on his truck, starting in the month after he testified at Beach’s evidentiary hearing. He said he didn’t connect the incidents to his testimony until November when a man threatened him and his wife at a grocery store.

“We’re coming out of the store on Nov. 25 and this car drives by and somebody’s yelling a bunch of names, calling me … ‘you snitch’ and ‘you rat,'” Hall told the Tribune.

He said the driver circled the parking lot, stopped in front of Hall and his wife and got out of the car. It appeared he was holding something behind his back.

“We were right in front of the store, and then he looked up directly at the store’s security camera and then stopped,” Hall said. “As soon as he sees that camera he says, ‘we’re going to get you.'”

Reports of harassment and threats of physical violence involving witnesses in the Beach case are not new.

Phillips issued an order in August for Roosevelt County sheriff’s deputies to find and bring to the evidentiary hearing a witness who initially refused to appear in court.

Carl Four Star Jr. told the court he was afraid to testify because he was beaten by a man related to Atkinson after he testified at Beach’s 2007 clemency hearing before the state Board of Pardons and Parole.

Four Star testified that while working at a factory in Wolf Point in 1985, he overheard Atkinson, then a co-worker, bragging about getting away with “the perfect crime.” Four Star said Atkinson told another co-worker that “she and other women had beaten Kim Nees up, and that they did quite a number on her.”

Hall said he did not believe Great Falls police took his report of the grocery store threat seriously, while Montclair said he didn’t report receiving the text messages after Poplar police didn’t take reports of earlier threats seriously.

Montclair said a representative of the Roosevelt County attorney’s office contacted him Tuesday and told him to report any future incidents.

Donna Reum with the county attorney’s office declined to comment Thursday