SAGUACHE — A former Saguache resident recently charged in Oklahoma with the murder of a Monte Vista couple is being considered as a possible suspect in the Saguache County cold-case murder of Brenda Kay Shepard in 2008.
Daniel M. Bessey was charged with the murders of 54-year-old John Salazar and 29-year-old Sarah Beasley in Beckham County, Okla. on Jan. 5. Beasley and Salazar were found shot to death at their Monte Vista residence on Feb. 13, 2012.
In addition to first-degree murder charges, Bessey also faces charges for first and second-degree burglary, criminal mischief, three counts of child abuse and reckless endangerment.
Oklahoma officials will extradite Bessey to Monte Vista to be tried for the crimes.
Shepard’s remains were discovered smoldering in a barrel along Highway 114 and County Road 41G on Sept. 20, 2008. The Saguache County Sheriff’s Office identified several persons of interest in the murder but never made an arrest.
Lt. Dan Warwick said that the sheriff’s office is at a standstill with the Shepard case but “what little evidence we do have points to the suspect.” While he said he still wishes to keep an open mind about who may have committed the murder, Bessey does have connections to the case.
“The lady killed in Monte Vista used to be Bessey’s significant other,” Saguache County Sheriff Mike Norris said Monday. “And when Shepard went missing she was living with Bessey. When we have two dead ladies [who were] his significant others, that makes him more viable” as a suspect. “It’s a common denominator.”
Bessey’s most recent significant other is former Saguache County Clerk Audrey Conley.
The couple recently took custody of Beasley and Bessey’s two-year-old son, Edward, before leaving for Oklahoma.
According to an article in the Monte Vista Journal Jan. 3, law enforcement theories, at the time of the murders, suggested the shooter knew the couple’s routine. The day the murders occurred, Bessey was scheduled to face Beasley in court on a child custody case involving Edward.
The Journal article also reported that Bessey was charged with the crimes following a Monte Vista Police Department interview with Conley in Oklahoma that resulted in some new, important information.
Norris speculated that the reason the initial hunt for Shepard’s murderer may have stalled was because officials were going in the wrong direction by not looking more closely at Bessey, if his connection to the case can be further confirmed.
Norris said the fact that Bessey was a truck driver at the time of both murders did make him wonder about others he may have been close to, but so far, he said, there is no evidence of any other incidents.
Norris said he expects to be speaking to Monte Vista Police once Bessey is extradited from Oklahoma.
All defendants are presumed innocent until/unless convicted in a court of law.