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Trial under way for man accused in disabled woman's death

Published November 16, 2011 11:16 pm

Trial • Dale Beckering is charged in death of disabled woman.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Christina Harms lay dead on the floor of a Kearns home, her body bruised, her arms and fingers wrapped so tightly in bandages she could not use her hands, a red pepper flake stuck in her lower right eyelid.

An autopsy would later determine the 22-year-old woman, whose fetal alcohol syndrome diminished her mental abilities, was severely dehydrated and had potentially fatal levels of Benadryl or a similar drug in her system.

The medical examiner listed the cause of death as abuse and neglect.

But as the trial for one of the three adults who lived in the same Kearns home as Harms got under way Wednesday in 3rd District Court, a defense attorney called Harms' death a tragedy about which Dale Beckering knew nothing.

"You're going to be shocked by a lot of things," defense attorney Rudy Bautista told the jury of six women and three men, "a lot of things Dale did not know about."

Beckering, 52, faces one count of aggravated abuse of a vulnerable adult. The first-degree felony is punishable by up to life in prison.

Prosecutors said Beckering had a role in caring for Harms and permitted the ongoing abuse, allegations which Beckering has denied.

According to testimony, Beckering told police he avoided Harms because she had a history of accusing men of rape. Beckering worked 12-hour days and spent his time at home in the basement, watching TV, listening to the radio and cross-stitching, Bautista said.

The defense attorney said Beckering was unaware of the abuses Harms was suffering upstairs at the hands of Beckering's wife, 50-year-old Sherrie Lynn Beckering, and his step-daughter Cassandra Marie Shepard.

Sherrie Beckering has been charged with aggravated abuse of a vulnerable adult and is scheduled to stand trial in January. Shepard, Harms' legal guardian, has been charged with murder in connection with the death.

Police said Harms was forced to live in a closet with an alarm system and a knife stuck in the door to prevent her from escaping. Inside the closet was a piece of cardboard with remnants of human feces and some scented pine cones and a sketch of Jesus Christ, officials have said. Also inside the closet was a clothes bar to which police say Harms was strapped using zip-ties.

Dale Beckering's trial is expected to run through Thursday.







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