Oftentimes the closest people to a homicide victim are involved in their demise, especially when there had been controversy from the very beginning of their relationship. But for Celeste Johnson, controversy didn’t bother her especially when the man she was looking at was older, wealthy, and willing to marry her and adopt her twin daughters.
Celeste Johnson was born February 13, 1963, she only met her biological mother once and she was told “I am not your mother, I was just your incubator.” Her adoptive parent, Edwin Johnson, was physically abusive and Celeste attempted suicide at a young age. At 17, Celeste was married to her first husband and had given birth to twin daughters, Jennifer and Kristina.
Celeste had been married and divorced twice more and was working as a waitress in a country club in Austin, TX, when she had met Steven Beard. Steven was a retired broadcasting executive, twice her age, and his wife had just recently died of cancer.
After convincing Celeste that he would adopt her daughters, she moved in with him and they were married February 18, 1995. Steven’s family believed Celeste married him only for his money.
Now everything may have appeared to be wonderful and happy in the Beard household but there was some discord. On October 3, 1999, Steven was shot while he slept. He was taken to the hospital and was later released but succumbed to a blood clot in January 2000.
Shortly after the shooting, the police tied the shooting to a woman named Tracey Tarlton. Tracey confessed and at the time was charged with assault. Tracey believed that she was in a committed relationship with Celeste Beard, whom she had met in a mental health facility.
Tracey realized that she had been duped when after Steven’s death, she had read in a newspaper that Celeste had gotten remarried six months after Steven had died. She no longer felt that she had to remain silent.
Celeste Johnson Beard had confided in Tracey Tarlton that Steven had been emotionally abusing her to the point of suicide. Tracey was persuaded to get rid of him and then she and Celeste could be together. Tracey shared these details with investigators and soon Celeste was also arrested.
Celeste’s attorney stated she had nothing to do with the murder, and that due to her mental instability, Tracey was obsessed with Celeste and acted alone. The attorney also stated that Celeste’s own daughters lied about her involvement so that they could inherit from Steven who had adopted them. They would not inherit anything if their mother was acquitted.
Celeste Johnson Beard was convicted of capital murder and was sentenced to life in prison, she will be eligible for parole April 1, 2042. She continues to maintain her innocence.
Tracey Tarlton was sentenced to a 10-year reduced sentence in exchange for testifying against Celeste. She was released on parole in August 2011, and now lives in San Antonio. She was released from parole in August 2021.
Be strong, make good choices, stay safe