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After Nearly 30 Years, Wife Convicted In Her Husband’s Shooting Death

November 21, 1996 GMT

WINNSBORO, S.C. (AP) _ The case began nearly 30 years ago with a question: How could a paralyzed man with only slight movement in a hand put a rifle in his mouth and pull the trigger? Jurors answered it Wednesday: He couldn’t.

Frances Truesdale, 54, sat silently as she was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1967 killing of her husband, Ronald ``Little Red″ Beasley.

Truesdale is already serving a 20-year sentence in Virginia for the 1988 murder of her second husband, Jerry Truesdale, whom she married about a month after Beasley died.

After the verdict, Beasley’s relatives cried and hugged. From the beginning, Beasley’s father doubted the initial ruling that his son’s death was a suicide.

``I’m glad this is over with,″ said 80-year-old K.C. Beasley. ``I know the family feels better knowing that Red’s death was murder and not a suicide like they said. ... I never believed that Little Red killed himself.″

In July 1967, Truesdale told police her then-29-year-old husband loaded a .22-caliber rifle and fired at her, then put the rifle in his mouth and blew his brains out.

Defense attorney Bob Fitzsimmons repeated her story to the jury Wednesday, and noted that the previous sheriff had refused to reconsider the coroner’s ruling of suicide.

``What? Didn’t anybody do their job back then?″ said Fitzsimmons, who called no defense witnesses. ``Over 29 years, memories fade, evidence crumbles, and the people who knew die.″

Little Red suffered a stroke a few months before his death. He could not walk or feed himself and wore diapers, and he required around-the-clock care. Friends said he had only slight movement in one hand.

``Shooting himself was physically impossible for him. How could he do it?″ asked Fairfield County Sheriff Herman Young.

Truesdale’s second husband, Jerry Truesdale, was shot to death in 1988 while driving a van in Roanoke, Va. She said he was shot from a passing car, but a jury convicted her of second-degree murder in 1992.

The Virginia investigation brought the questions about Little Red’s death back into the open. And when Young took office in 1992, one of the first things he did was reopen the Beasley case.

``Twenty-nine years is a long time to wait, but as long as justice is done, it’s not too long,″ Young said.

Truesdale is eligible for parole within the next few months and will start her sentence in South Carolina if released.