Keith Beyer will spend the rest of the his life in prison, with no possibility of parole, for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl at gunpoint and then strangling his 41-year-old wife in November 2012.
After Fresno County Superior Court Judge Denise Whitehead handed down the sentence following a lengthy sentencing hearing Wednesday, friends and relatives of Sandra Beyer, who Beyer strangled by tying a shoelace around her neck, broke into applause.
The sentencing came after emotional statements from not only friends, family and even his ex-wife, but also some strong words from the rape victim. Through most of it, Beyer sat impassively at the defense table.
“I’m so mad because you sit there with a smirk on your face,” the rape victim said to Beyer. “You can’t even look me in the face because you’re a coward. ... It’s going to make me happy to know that you’re suffering (in prison). ... You’re gonna get what’s coming to you in prison and you know where you’re going right afterward.”
Never miss a local story.
Others, such as Elaine Franco, Sandra Beyer’s friend since sixth grade, were more emotional.
“You took my best friend,” she tearfully said to Beyer, who responded: “You know I didn’t do this, Elaine.”
It wasn’t the only time Beyer proclaimed his innocence during the hearing.
“I’m also a victim in this,” he later told Whitehead, as Sandra Beyer’s family gasped. “I lost my wife. I want to know who did this. ... It’s sad to know you guys don’t want the real truth.”
But after the killing, authorities said Beyer told his grandmother and police he killed his wife. And at his arraignment a few days after the killing, Beyer told the judge he killed his wife and wanted the death penalty.
A day before the slaying, Beyer took the girl to a lake. On the way home, he pulled over on the side of the road and sexually assaulted her at gunpoint, prosecutor Robert Mangano said during Beyer’s trial. Mangano also said Beyer sexually assaulted the girl later that night at gunpoint. After the assault, Beyer killed his wife.
Police found Sandra Beyer dead on her bed inside the couple’s apartment at 928 L St. in Sanger on Nov. 25, 2012. Beyer was arrested two days later in the Shaver Lake area. He has been in the Fresno County Jail ever since.
During the trial, jurors were told police found no signs of forced entry into the Beyers’ home. There was no sign of a struggle because Sandra Beyer had no defensive wounds on her hands, indicating that she may have been sleeping at the time Beyer killed her.
According to testimony, the shoelace came from one of Beyer’s steel-toed boots.
Beyer’s actual sentence is three counts of 15 years to life, to be served consecutively, for the sexual assaults on the underage girl. An additional sentence of life without possibility of parole was added for the murder.
At Wednesday’s hearing Beyer represented himself. During the trial, he was represented by Roberto Dulce.
But Beyer’s arguments were often off-point and only tangentially related to his sentencing. For instance, he nitpicked the probation report, citing things like incorrect ages for his children. He started off the hearing by asking for a new trial and then seeking an investigation into jury misconduct. He never detailed the alleged misconduct, and Whitehead denied both requests.
When Whitehead asked whether anyone wanted to speak on Beyer’s behalf, his current wife, Melissa Beyer Mora, stepped forward.
“My husband is not a bad man,” she said. “He’s a good man. He’d just had a hard life.”
They married after he was incarcerated for the rape and murder. They attended high school together in Fresno, and may or may not have dated at that time. Statements made during the sentencing hearing gave conflicting accounts.
Through everything Wednesday, Mangano said he was most impressed by the rape victim, who not only addressed Beyer, but also sat through most of the hearing, leaving only when Beyer portrayed himself as a victim and claimed innocence.
“I was incredibly impressed with her strength and how she addressed the court and her (attacker) in such a difficult circumstance,” Mangano said. “What she said brought tears to my eyes, as well as the rest of the courtroom, and I will forever be touched by her strength and her resilience.”