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Former Saguache resident arrested on murder charge

Posted: Friday, Jan 11th, 2013

Daniel Bessey

MONTE VISTA— Daniel Bessey, 41, was arrested Jan. 5 in Beckham County, Okla. for the murders of John Salazar, 54, and Sarah Beasley, 29.

The arrest was made as the result of a multi-agency investigation involving the Monte Vista Police Department, Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation that began immediately after the killings. The Monte Vista Police Department is grateful to those agencies and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement official in Oklahoma and Utah.

Bessey has been charged with murder in the first degree, first and second-degree burglary, criminal mischief, three counts of child abuse and reckless endangerment. He is currently being held in Oklahoma.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 13, 2012, shots rang out on Lyell Street in Monte Vista. Officers responding to a shots-fired call found Salazar and Beasley dead at the scene. Three children were in the house at the time.

Salazar, who was leaving for his job as a school custodian, was found on the front step; Beasley was in the living room. An autopsy showed that Beasley had been shot four times with a small caliber weapon; Salazar had been shot five times, each in a different part of his body.

Despite a spray painted sign on the side of the residence, “My drugs aren’t free,” no drugs were found in either victim, though Salazar had caffeine in his system, according to former Police Chief Rick Needham.

Beasley, who was a counseling education student at Trinidad State Junior College-Valley Campus, was in good health and also showed traces of caffeine.

Apparently, the pair habitually drank coffee together before Salazar left for work at 4:30 a.m. each day. He would go out and warm up his truck around 4 a.m. Law enforcement theories, at the time of the murders, suggested the shooter knew the couple’s routine.

Later that day, Bessey was slated to face Beasley in court on a child custody case involving the couple’s then two-year-old son, Edward.

The child was turned over to Bessey and his wife, Audrey Conley, who were at the time, residents of Saguache County.

An emergency hearing over the child was held in Oklahoma on Tuesday after the arrest was made.

Bessey and Conley had been allowed to take the child with them to Weatherford, Okla. where they had work.

Needham objected to the custody motion over Edward in the beginning, since Bessey was a person of interest in the homicide.

The judge said Bessey was innocent until proven guilty and, as the child’s only surviving parent, would have legal custody.

A consuming battle between Bessey and Sonya Steinhoff, Beasley’s mother, continued until Bessey and Conley moved to Oklahoma.

Beasley’s two other sons, ages six and nine at the time of the homicide, were orphaned since their natural father had drowned several years earlier.

They have been in secure care since their mother’s death, as they were the only witnesses to the shooting.

Sources said officers from the Monte Vista Police Department interviewed Conley in Oklahoma last week and learned some new, important information.

Bessey will be extradited back to Colorado to face the charges; a court date has not yet been set.

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