A Montana man who spent three decades behind bars for a murder he says he did not commit walked out of prison Friday after the governor granted his clemency request. Barry Beach, 53, told reporters gathered outside the Montana State Prison's front door that the moment was "surreal." "I knew it was going to be here someday," Beach said. "The good Lord in heaven has always assured me that I'd reach this point. I never dreamed it was going to take this long." He added there would be "a lot of healing and lot of tears" during the four-hour drive to his Billings home, and he thanked Gov. Steve Bullock for keeping his word. The governor, who was not present, previously said he'd look favorably on Beach's request.
Beach was serving a 100-year sentence with no possibility of parole for the 1979 beating death of Kimberly Nees, 17, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeast Montana. Bullock noted in his order that Beach was only 17 at the time and exhibited good behavior in prison. The murder of Nees, an honor student, gripped the small town of Poplar after her body was found alongside a river at a popular place for teenagers to party. No arrests were made, and small-town gossip built until Beach confessed to out-of-state police who picked him up on an unrelated crime. But Beach said his 1983 confession in Louisiana was coerced. A cousin of the victim said Friday it was shameful Beach had been released without someone else being charged in the crime.