Michael Beard is still proclaiming his innocence on national TV, even after being convicted in one of the most high-profile murder cases in the Southern Tier, for more than six years.
Clayton Stage Kelley was found guilty of first-degree murder in November for the brutal bludgeoning death of Clayton Stage Kelley, more than a year earlier. As part of a two-hour program on ABC’s 20/20, Beard granted an interview that revisited the highly-publicized case.
The television program, named “What the Little Girl Witnessed,” was broadcasted on Jan. 20 on ABC affiliates across the country.
Thomas Beard, the husband of Kelley, initially confessed to the murder and told the police that he was hired to burn down the house for insurance money when he arrived and found Kelley already dead. However, he later recanted his statement and offered to pay someone to kill his wife.
He claimed that he was upset by both Clayton and the police, stating that her death had nothing to do with him. He said that he was asked to do an interview for the 20/20 show in order to set the record straight.
“Beard informed the interviewer, ‘I proceed to that location, obtain the key, unlock the door, and experience a surprising moment.’ ‘I witnessed her (Kelley) lying on the floor.'”
A homicide that stunned and captivated the Southern Tier
Clayton Thomas received a frantic call from the Steuben County 911 center when it was shortly after midnight on September 29th, informing him that his wife was deceased.
Michael Beard implicated another individual, Clayton, in the crime of second-degree murder in relation to the death of his wife, prior to a family member of Kelley’s pressing charges against the police by day’s end.
Clayton, who had previously worked at another business, was also the manager of local operations for Beard and franchise. Recently, Beard had been fired as a laborer from ServPro, a franchise company in Horseheads that specializes in home remediation after floods or fires.
Clayton eventually confessed that he offered $10,000 to Kelley to burn down Caton’s home and kill him, but initially, he denied any involvement in the murder, Beard said.
The revelation led prosecutors to consider hiring Kelley for murder, enabling them to charge him with first-degree murder.
After a two-week trial, he was found guilty on all counts by a jury, driven by substantial scientific evidence, which included the discovery of his DNA on the weapon used in the killing. However, Beard later altered his account.
The situation involving Clayton was more intricate.
Altered his narrative as he was unable to utilize Beard’s admission or summon him as a witness against Clayton, the Chemung County District Attorney and special prosecutor, Weeden Wetmore.
It took the jury only six hours to come back with a guilty verdict. Wetmore had to rely on a mountain of circumstantial evidence and testimony during the lengthy trial.
More: 10 facts to understand regarding the Thomas Clayton murder-for-hire case.
More: The case of Thomas Clayton and Kelley Clayton: The anatomy of a homicide.
Michael Beard voices his opinion
The 20/20 segment centered on the tale of Clayton’s young daughter Charlie, who observed her mother’s killing.
Clayton spent a fair amount of time performing various tasks at home, mostly related to work. He also gave a rare public voice to his relationship with Thomas Beard, who said so.
He stated, “I essentially witnessed their growth. Hence, it was quite fascinating. I am being remunerated for this task, which allowed me to cease my employment and take care of them until she returned.” On several occasions, she expressed a desire to handle financial obligations or other matters, but the children were unwilling to accompany her.
Clayton Thomas, who goes by the name Beard, has changed his story several times about what happened the night of Kelley’s murder. He didn’t ask Clayton anything illegal to do now.
Additionally, the first-degree murder conviction of Michael Beard has been upheld by the Appeals court, while the other charges have been dismissed.
Beard requested that Clayton meet him at the Clayton residence late at night. Clayton, who was both Beard’s landlord and interviewee, was informed by Beard that he was in financial difficulties and only presented him with a job opportunity.
Beard said, “I have been at Clayton’s house at 3 o’clock in the morning. Being a 24/7 restoration company, calls came in at any time. It was just a proposal that asked me if I wanted to take on a job. It wasn’t a proposal that portrayed anything like they wanted.”
Beard said when he entered and saw Kelley’s body, he didn’t check to see if she was alive or call for help.
In the middle of the night, a Black man found himself dead on the floor of a white woman’s house, fully aware of the implications his presence would have.
“I entered into the situation without anticipating its nature, unaware that it would be unrelated to me. My intention was to extricate myself from that particular circumstance,” Beard recounted. “However, I did not make a call to emergency services on that particular evening, and I am not using that as a justification. I experienced fear at that juncture.”
“Pushed him to the ground while maneuvering around him,” despite being unable to see the individual’s visage, Beard additionally mentioned coming across another individual inside the Clayton residence.
When asked about the reason behind signing a confession, Beard mentioned that if he didn’t murder Kelley, he clarified that those words were not his own. However, he acknowledged that a majority of the content was composed by investigators, as he believed it would bring about less hardship for his family if he admitted to the crime.
Reflecting on the past, he also believes Clayton orchestrated the entire late-night gathering to frame him for Kelley’s demise.
Both Clayton and Beard were sentenced to life in prison without parole following their convictions. Each has exhausted appeals of their verdicts.
Taking into account everything they have experienced, relatives of Kelley Clayton informed 20/20 that her kids Charlie, who was 7 when the homicide occurred, and Cullen, who was just 3 at that time, are doing fine.
Many organizations used the Clayton case to highlight the problem of domestic violence by adorning the landscape with dotted signs that read “Justice for Kelley” and purple ribbons, both during and after Thomas Clayton’s trial.
CNN and ABC aired magazine news programs, as well as network news headlines.
Beard is currently serving his life sentence at the Auburn Correctional Facility. Meanwhile, Clayton, who is confined at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York, allegedly refused to be interviewed for the 20/20 program.
To view the latest 20/20 episode on the Clayton case, visit abc.Com/shows/2020/episode-guide/2023-01/20-what-the-little-girl-saw.
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