Prosecutor considers ‘special inquiry’ to compel witness testimony in unsolved murder
The parents of an Auburn man who was beaten to death while visiting Pacific County in 2015 say they can’t sit back and wait for justice anymore. No arrests have been made, requests for information have been denied, and they say the sheriff’s office has misled them, lied to them and even misplaced evidence—they say they’re the victims now.
PACIFIC COUNTY, Wash. – The parents of a man from Auburn who was beaten to death while visiting Pacific County in 2015 say they can’t sit back and wait for justice anymore.
36-year-old Jeff Beach was in Long Beach for a softball tournament for the Fourth of July weekend in 2015, when he was attacked at night in the sand dunes. Beach was airlifted to Portland where he died.
“To date, we’ve been through two different sheriffs and three different prosecutors,” said his father, Keith Beach.
With no arrest made, mother Laurie Beach says her patience with the investigation is at an end. They say their requests for information have been denied by the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office, including their son’s autopsy report.
“We just want closure,” said Laurie. “We’re honest people. We’ve told them we’re honest people, and we just want to know what happened.”
They say they both feel that the sheriff’s office has misled them, lied to them and misplaced key evidence—including a bloody shirt that Keith says was found at the scene and sent to the state patrol crime lab for analysis.
“We’ve been asked by other law enforcement professionals during the time that we’ve been going through Jeff’s case whether or not we believe that there is some incompetence or corruption going on, and from our perspective, maybe both,” said Keith.
Detectives have always believed the suspect or suspects who killed Jeff live in the Vancouver, Washington area. Beacon Plumbing owner Bill Cahill even funded four Crime Stoppers billboards there, offering a $36,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
“There might be people connected to the case that were involved that have changed their allegiance. They’ve made a decision that the people that they’re hiding aren’t really worth $36,000, so maybe they’re going to contact the Pacific County Sheriff’s Department and they’re going to take involvement in this case,” said Cahill. “If you don’t like the guy you’re standing next to and you never liked him anyway, you’d probably do better with $36,000 in your pocket, and you’d be doing the community a favor.”
That’s a lot of motivation, but up until now, any tips that came in haven’t panned out.
Now, Keith and Laurie say they feel like the victims. Keith says his son’s murder is not a case of ‘whodunit.’ He says he’s been told that follow-up interviews with possible witnesses or others who have information haven’t been completed by the sheriff’s office.
He says Pacific County Sheriff Robin Souvenir made commitment after commitment to him that he wanted to be personally involved in the case, but nothing happened.
“There’s been more than one time where we felt that they were kind of hoping we would die and go away,” said Keith.
The Spotlight reached out to Sheriff Souvenir to comment, but we have not yet heard back.
Pacific County Prosecutor Mark Rothman did reply to our request for information and says he understands the family’s frustration, writing in an email that, “It remains an open and active investigation,” and that “The Prosecutor’s Office with the Sheriff’s Office [want] to move the case forward.”
If detectives are having a difficult time getting people to talk to them, there is a solution.
Cloyd Steiger worked as a homicide detective for the Seattle Police for 22 years before retiring. I first met him in 2012 when he investigated the murder of Patrick Fleming, a 70-year-old Navy veteran killed for his coin collection. Steiger caught the couple who murdered Fleming and estimates he’s had an 85–90% solve rate during his career that includes more than 250 homicide investigations.
He says there is a system set up in Washington called an ‘inquiry judge proceeding’.
“It’s basically the closest thing the State of Washington has to a grand jury, but it’s not in front of a jury. It’s in front of an individual judge and a prosecutor. It’s a secret hearing—the prosecutor, just like a grand jury, you subpoena the witnesses,” explained Steiger. “They come in there. They are compelled. They are sworn in, compelled to answer but in order for it to work, they have to be serious. If the people refuse to answer, or you know they are lying, you have to threaten them with arrest.”
Prosecutor Rothman says he is considering using the special inquiry proceeding to lock in the testimony of witnesses if necessary.
“I have delegated preparing the necessary form to one of my deputy prosecutors. However, the special inquiry proceeding is not a panacea. It can be used for a limited purpose. Compelled testimony without corroboration is of very limited value. Additionally, this procedure cannot be employed to interview a suspect,” he wrote in an email.
Steiger says it is never too late to go back and take another look at the case and how you can solve it.
“Maybe they think they are so far into this, we can’t do it now because we will look bad. No, you won’t. You will look great. If you go now and say, ‘We probably didn’t do everything we could do before, but we are going to do it now,’ you will look fantastic,” said Steiger.
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It’s something for newly-elected Pacific County Sheriff Daniel Garcia to consider when he takes office.
“I feel like we’re maybe getting another chance to get someone that wants to help us, and realize we are not going away and can find resources to help,” said Laurie.
Keith has tried to remain hopeful, but while his optimism has faded, his determination to get justice for his son has not.
“I’ve been told several times by different law enforcement folks that if it was them, that if it was their son that was murdered the night Jeff was murdered, that there is no way that they would be as patient as we have been, and they’d be pounding on people’s desks for answers and action,” said Keith.