This Boy's Life

Joshua Beckius was only sixteen when he accepted a plea bargain for a crime he now says he didn't commit. Will the court let him take his case to trial?

Again, Rosentreader was placed at the scene. He "was to be by the outside telephone acting like he was using the phone," according to Garcia, who said that he later saw Rosentreader standing at the Taco Bell, asking for a ride home.

Although all of the gang members' statements were rambling and self-contradictory, Garcia's were particularly incoherent. "Josh just said, 'Me and Charlie did this, we went to go to a motel and party for days and we'll have some girls over...'" Garcia said. He told police that Beckius had entered the movie house with Pa, and also that Beckius had had to go home at ten. He identified the gun that killed James as a .38 or perhaps a .380. (In fact, it was a .22-caliber pistol.) At one point, he told investigators, "Josh told me he stuck it (the gun) inside the speaker box behind the speaker at his house." (The gun was never found.)

At times Garcia seemed confused about which night they were actually discussing: Was it the night the gang robbed the Asian Market? The night they knocked over the automobile dealer? He'd caught a glimpse of the manager through the movie-house door, Garcia said, and he was fat. Dayton James was slender. In Garcia's account, Beckius and Pa stole $500, which they split, each of them pocketing $300. When the detective asked where the extra hundred dollars had come from, Garcia said Pa and Beckius had stopped on the way to the motel, broken into someone's house and stolen it.

Life in the best lane: On February 17, Jim Lambert had his friends on pins and needles.
Life in the best lane: On February 17, Jim Lambert had his friends on pins and needles.
Dayton James died at the Basemar Cinema Savers on April 27, 1993.
Dayton James died at the Basemar Cinema Savers on April 27, 1993.

A second interview with Pa provided a motive for the murder. Pa had steadily maintained that Beckius, rather than himself, was the killer. But when he was asked why James had been shot after giving up the money, he responded: "One, if if you're gonna go rob somebody, say you go and rob him, you gonna shoot him -- right? 'Cause you don't want him call cop and remember your face and say who you are, what you look like, right? That's the only way I think of Josh would pull a trig on him...

"That's what I think, it's the only way...'cause I don't remember the old man...I don't hear the old man say anything or...I don't even..."

Pa had nothing but contempt for the weapon that killed James: ".22 is like a girl gun. That's for a girl to use, you know. 'Cause I use big gun, bigger guns like I told you."

Other witnesses surfaced. An inmate at the Boulder County Juvenile Center, Robert Monroe, said Beckius had pulled him aside to admit that he'd "shot and robbed" James. Before giving this information, however, Monroe wanted to know about the $8000 reward James's family was offering. It would later transpire that Monroe's stay at the juvenile center overlapped with Beckius's by only one day: May 3, 1993.

A Joel Burbas said he had run into Pa, Garcia and Joshua Beckius at a supermarket soon after the crime, when Beckius had said "we" shot the old man. The mother of yet another of Beckius's girlfriends said her daughter had told her Beckius was present at the robbery, but had not killed James. The daughter had received a call from Cason Garcia and been told to warn Beckius that the Joker was after him. Yet Yep had identified Beckius himself as the Joker. (In fact, the Joker was the nickname of another member of the group who had no connection with the Basemar crime.)

By the end of 1994, Beckius was living with seventeen-year-old Ellishae Elliott, who was six months pregnant when they met. To Beckius's friends and family, it seemed that he was trying to turn his life around.

"He was my first love," says Elliott. "He took care of me. He took care of the baby. If you didn't know he wasn't the father, you would have thought he was. He was always the one who wanted to hold her and show her off. He was the only one that could get her to take her binkie." She laughs. "That's what we called her pacifier."

"I was in the delivery room with her," Beckius says. "It was pretty cool. We did breathing exercises. I cut the cord. The baby's name's Kyleigh, and I was with her for a month. I used to get up and change diapers."

Beckius was working two jobs, but the couple still had trouble making ends meet. Beckius also had violated parole on his juvenile offenses. So they decided to move to Missouri and stay with Elliott's father.

In February 1995, Boulder police arrived in Union, Missouri, to extradite Beckius. They confronted him with the other gang members' statements about the Cinema Savers murder. Beckius said he'd been at home on the night of the crime; in addition, he thought he was wearing an ankle bracelet. The police said they'd checked with the Boulder Enhanced Supervision Team, which administers the bracelet program, and that Beckius was free of the bracelet on April 26, 1993. At that point, Beckius asked to take a lie-detector test.

"As God is my witness," he said, "I swear on the Bible I was not there that night...and I believe in God very strongly."

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