Day eight in the Michael Beard trial featured not only the defendant taking the stand, but also grand jury testimony which was given by Beard on Dec. 1, 2015, being presented to the jury.
Within that grand jury testimony, Beard claimed Thomas Clayton offered him $10,000 for a job in April 2015. Beard said Thomas never told him of the job details, other than the fact that it could mean jail time.
Beard claimed he jokingly asked Thomas if he wanted his wife killed for that kind of money, he says Thomas smiled and didn’t discuss any other details.
Fast forward to Sept. 17, 2015, when Beard is fired from ServPro, the business where he and Thomas Clayton worked together for several months.
Beard says that same day, Clayton picked up as he was walking home and started asking him what him what Beard would do for income and rent money. Beard also lived in an apartment in which Thomas owned, and claims Thomas offered him five months of living rent free in addition to the $10,000 to kill his wife, Kelley.
That’s when Beard says Clayton offered him the job of killing Kelley, and burning down the couple’s home for the insurance money.
Also within that testimony, Beard confessing to beating Kelley to death with a maul hammer handle. Beard says he first struck Kelley in the head with the weapon in her bedroom and the struggle ended downstairs in the kitchen.
In the testimony, Beard said he was instructed to make the scene appear as an accident, by knocking Kelley out, and using nail polish remover and a candle to start a fire.
Beard claimed to be coming forth with this information in the grand jury testimony because he wanted justice to be served, and he wanted to apologize to Kelley Clayton’s family.
After reading the grand jury testimony and one more witness taking the stand, the prosecution rested, and the defense called up its first witness, Michael Beard.
While on the stand, Beard told the defense and prosecution that he was intimidated by investigators into giving a confession. He claims they said his fiancé and other family members could possibly be implicated in the crime if Beard didn’t give a confession.
Beard claimed investigators, as well as his first team of lawyers, advised him to just keep saying he was guilty, and that’s why he testified to the grand jury and said he killed Kelley, so the court might treat him better.
Special Prosecutor Weeden Wetmore then drilled Beard on the stand, asking details about the night of murder, Beard insisted he went inside the Clayton residence only with the intention of burning it down, and that he never touched Kelley.
Beard added Thomas’ phone call from another person’s phone around 11 p.m. on Sept. 28 was Thomas telling him that Kelley and the kids had left the house for the night, and he was good to move forward with the plan. He testified that he believed the home to be empty, and says he wouldn’t have gone to burn the house down had he known the family was inside.
But upon entering the Clayton home and seeing Kelley’s dead body, Beard said he was simply in shock, and that he was traumatized and had no idea what he was doing or what was going on. And when he realized the kids were also inside the home, he took off.
He added that another person was inside the Clayton home when beard arrived, Beard claims that person was wearing a mask and handed Beard the alleged murder weapon. Beard says he then he ran back to the truck he used to get to the Clayton’s and drove off.
According to Beard, a pair of gloves were wrapped around the alleged murder weapon, and Beard held that weapon outside the window of the truck he used that night until throwing the weapon and gloves away.
He says he ditched evidence, including the clothes he wore the night of Kelley’s death, because he simply wanted to forget any memory of that night.
Among the other witnesses on Wednesday, an investigator and blood spatter expert with the New York State Police. That expert said he wasn’t surprised traces of blood weren’t found in the truck Beard says he used to drive to Clayton’s home the night of Kelley’s death, as blood tends to dry quickly, therefore making the transfer of it more difficult.
The last witness on the stand Wednesday was an expert on criminal interrogation and confessions. He claimed some of Beard’s testimony, as well as police testimony, given in the trial showed characteristics of a possible false confession, but there was no way to know for sure if Beard did in fact give a false confession.
Beard says he used the truck of another ServPro employee, which Thomas gave him, to get to the Clayton’s home the night of Kelley’s death. He says he parked it at a logging path entrance approximately 0.4 miles from the scene of the crime at 2181 Ginnan Rd. in the Town of Caton.
The jury also learned of Mark Blandford’s role in the crime. According to Beard, he picked Blandford up before going to the Clayton’s, and he offered him some money if he would act as a lookout while he went inside to burn the home down.
Mark Blandford, of Elmira, was formally charged in Kelley’s death this past summer.
Wetmore said after the conclusion of day eight in the trial that he believes closing statements will be given on Thursday. After that, the jury will deliberate.
Thomas Clayton found his wife, Kelley, dead in the couple’s home during the early morning hours of Sept. 29, 2015.
The third person charged in Kelley’s death is her husband, Thomas. It’s believed that Thomas Clayton allegedly hired Beard to kill his wife.
Stay with 18 News for the latest in the trial.