SALEM — During a nearly three-hour parole-board hearing Wednesday, killer Roger Dale Beck spoke at length of his life inside Oregon’s only maximum-security prison, about the anger and violence that consumed him as a young man and the people who conspired to put him behind bars.
What the former Sisters man did not dwell on: his role in the 1978 murder of Kaye Turner, a 35-year-old Eugene woman who vanished on the day before Christmas while running along an isolated road in Camp Sherman. Turner was spending the holiday in Central Oregon with her husband and their friends when she left for a run in the morning. She never came back.
Some of her remains and clothing were found in the woods the following year.
The case, now more than four decades old, came to life again in a hearing room deep inside the Oregon State Penitentiary, where Beck is serving a life sentence in Turner’s killing.
Beck and his friend John Ackroyd, a mechanic for the state highway department, were convicted in the case a dozen years after Turner went missing. No physical evidence tied the men to the killing and both maintained their innocence.
But Ackroyd’s own damning statements implicated him in the murder. A half-dozen witnesses testified that Beck bragged about the attack over the years, often while in a drunken rage.
They were found guilty in separate trials in Jefferson County Circuit Court.
Ackroyd died alone in his prison cell at the state penitentiary in 2016.
Beck, now 70, has on three previous occasions asked the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision to deem him “likely to be rehabilitated,” a finding that would clear the way for eventual parole. Each time, the board has rejected his request, concluding that Beck had not accepted responsibility for his actions and had failed to adequately take part in prison programs aimed at rehabilitation.
This was his fourth attempt.
He sat across from three board members, wearing prison blues with “inmate” stamped in orange on his leg. The back of his shirt was marked with the Department of Corrections insignia. As he spoke, he shuffled his feet, clad in white sneakers that he bought from the prison commissary.
In a soft and raspy voice, Beck described how work provides structure for his life in prison. He washes linens in the prison laundry for hospitals around the state. He described himself as a recovering alcoholic who has been sober since he was locked up. He has over $1,000 in his prison spending account, most of it savings from work.
Before his eventual conviction, he had been arrested more than a dozen times. He served time in Minnesota for a sex crime. Since he’s been in prison, Beck said, he’s steered clear of trouble — an assertion that his clean prison record seems to support.
“Twenty-seven years ago, I didn’t think about what the consequences would be or what it would do to myself or anybody else,” he said. “It was just, you get in my face, I’ll get back in your face.”
And while he presented a portrait of an older and wiser man, he said he still harbors animosity against one of his sisters who testified against him at trial. And he suggested that his ex-wife who also testified against him bore some responsibility for his violence in their marriage.
“They had a vendetta against me and probably rightly so,” he said. “I wasn’t a real nice person.”
When the board shifted to Kaye Turner, Beck’s affect remained flat.
“I never seen Mrs. Turner alive. I never seen Mrs. Turner dead,” he said.
He was pressed by the board about whether he felt empathy for Turner’s loved ones.
“I feel bad for anybody who loses a loved one,” he said. He recalled seeing Turner’s mother Catherine Gray sitting through his trial.
“I felt so sorry for her mother,” he said.
Turner’s then-husband Noel Turner submitted a letter to the board opposing Beck’s attempt to win parole. Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche underscored Turner’s terrifying and violent death at the hands of two strangers.
Leriche said Beck’s petitions to the board over the years have failed to acknowledge the crime and the damage he left behind.
“Year after year they get sanitized and repackaged,” Leriche said, pointing out that Beck’s latest application is nearly the same as the one he submitted in 2017. “The very first step for rehabilitation would be an acceptance of what you have done.”
The prosecutor acknowledged the passage of time. He said many of those involved in the Turner case moved on with their lives or have died.
“I want the board to know that Jefferson County remembers Ms. Turner,” he said. “Our office remembers her and remembers this case.”
As the hearing came to an end, the board asked Beck if he wanted to make any last statements. He declined.
Board officials told him they would make a decision within 30 days.
SALEM — three hours Wednesday.
The former Sisters man spoke at length of his life inside Oregon’s only maximum-security prison, about the anger and violence that consumed him as a young man and the people who conspired to put him behind bars.