Who Killed Kim? Part One: The Crime - KULR8.com | Montana's News Leader | Billings, MT

Who Killed Kim? Part One: The Crime

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POPLAR, Mont. -

This month convicted killer Barry Beach hopes to hear from the Montana state parole board about his request for his 100 year sentence with no chance of parole to be commuted so he can have an opportunity to be released from prison after having served more than 30 years.

Beach was convicted for the 1979 murder of 17-year-old classmate Kimberly Ann Nees.

It's a crime Beach says he didn't commit, although he confessed to it in 1983, a confession he says was coerced.

The Montana parole board's decision on the Beach request could come any day now.

Over the past six months, we've been examining the events surrounding the case and traveled to the scene of the crime, trying to piece together the facts of this case, with no effort whatsoever to determine if Beach is innocent as he claims or guilty as determined by a jury.

In fact, this is not a story about Barry Beach although he is certainly part of it.

Tonight, we start with part one: "Who Killed Kim?"

It's a sleepy, struggling little town about 70 miles from the Canadian border.

It sits on the Fort Peck Indian reservation in northeast Montana.

Like so many communities in the state, the mighty railroad runs right through it. Poplar, Montana. Population about 800.

You know, the kind of place where just about everyone knows something about everybody else, and just about everyone knew this young woman, Kimberly Ann Nees.

A pretty girl getting ready to turn 18 in 1979, she was the valedictorian of her graduating class at Poplar High.

Family members say she had big plans, wanted to spread her wings and fly to Missoula to attend the University of Montana.

Her aunt is Cindy Smith. "She'd tell it like it was. She was valedictorian of her high school class. She could party with the best of them and still maintain and do what she had to do to be successful. She had success written all over her."

But just weeks after graduating, Kim's summer, her future success, and her young life would come to a brutal and tragic end.

It happened here in this open field shaded by a few trees near the Poplar River and less than 100 yards from Highway 2. It was in the early morning hours of June 16, 1979.

Kim had been driving her daddy's pickup truck and investigators say it was inside that truck where she was viscously beaten with a crescent wrench and possibly other tools before being dragged out of the truck on the passenger side and beaten more until she breathed no more.

There was no sexual assault, robbery not a motive.

Investigators say whoever took this young woman's life did so with vengeance and extreme anger.

Kim's blood and hair were just about everywhere inside the cab of the truck. Outside, a pool of blood and clumps of Kim's hair where the final blows were delivered. She was hit in the head and neck dozens of times.

Autopsy said her skull was completely crushed.

Her lifeless, bloody body was then dragged 257 feet and rolled off this cliff along the Poplar River just underneath the train bridge, a popular hangout for kids in the area.

Her attacker or attackers then crawled down to the river bank and pushed her body into the water.

On Monday, the clues left behind including three sets of footprints along the drag trail, a bloody hand print on the passenger side of the pickup, two dozen fingerprints, and a rather chilling early morning phone call.

"I'm the guy that got the phone call at 5 in the morning two hours before, supposedly before they found the body and everything started rocking and rolling."

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