Kearns man sent to prison for ignoring fatal abuse

Court • Victim, 22, functioned at preteen levels.
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A Kearns man accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse that eventually killed a mentally disabled woman in his home has been sentenced to prison for one to 15 years.

A jury last year convicted Dale Beckering, 52, of second-degree felony aggravated abuse of a vulnerable adult. Prosecutors say Beckering knew of the abuses suffered by 22-year-old Christina Harms and, at times, participated in them.

In court Monday, Beckering said "as much as I deeply regret what happened and I wish I could undo it somehow" that he planned to appeal the case and declined to comment further.

Beckering was one of three adults living in the home with Harms when she died in late March.

Harms suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, which made her function at preteen levels. Her legal guardian, Cassandra Marie Shepard, 28, has been charged with murder in connection with Harms' death.

Beckering and his wife, 50-year-old Sherrie Lynn Beckering, had each been charged with a count of aggravated abuse of a vulnerable adult, a first-degree felony.

"We all have an obligation," prosecutor Chad Platt said Monday. "His case was about that obligation as a human being and under the law to protect those most vulnerable."

In March, Harms was found dead on the floor of the Beckerings' home, her body bruised, her arms and fingers wrapped tightly in bandages.

An autopsy determined the woman died of abuse and neglect. She was severely dehydrated and had potentially fatal levels of Benadryl or a similar drug in her system.

Dale Beckering has said he worked 12-hour days and spent his time at home in the basement, away from Harms, because she had previously accused him of rape. Bautista called his client "the least culpable of the parties involved" and said the abuse that eventually took Harms' life had only been happening for about a week and that Dale Beckering was unaware of it.

Police and prosecutors — and ultimately Judge Robert Faust — said they did not believe Beckering was unaware of the happenings in his home. Prosecutors have said Beckering took part in placing Harms in a closet as punishment. According to police, Harms would be strapped to a bar in the closet with zip-ties.

The closet had an alarm system and a knife was stuck in the door to prevent Harms 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.

Sherrie Beckering — who is scheduled for trial in June — sat with her husband in court Monday but left without speaking to reporters. No trial dates has been set for Shepard.