Jerry Beaty offered a $25,000 reward in the case. He hired a private investigator, appealed to the dive community and even filed a civil suit against a man he says was responsible for the crime although investigators had not named that person as a suspect.
In 2007, a Bryan County judge denied Jerry Beaty’s petition for a grand jury investigation into his wifes death. The judge who denied the petition was the DA when the murder was committed. Jerry Beaty’s attorney said the judge should have recused himself, but the judge said the issue never came up in the proceedings.
Jerry Beaty worked with the OSBI and other authorities in his quest to find his wife's killer, but finally in desperation he turned to the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute at Auburn University-Montgomery. College students from Auburn-Montgomery and Faulkner University in Alabama work with students at Bauder College in Atlanta to investigate unsolved crimes. Participants don’t get grades or credits; instead, they get the chance to work with law enforcement professionals on real crimes. They have worked on high profile cases like the Chendra Levy and Natalie Hollaway case. They are credited with solving the Levy murder. But because CCIRI wasn't a ‘law enforcement’ agency, the OSBI could not release records to CCIRI.
Jerry Beaty turned to State Representative Sue Tibbs, (R-Tulsa), and State Senator Don Barrington, (R-Lawton) for help. They authored HB 3294 which allowed the OSBI to release the files and now the students are on the case.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Beaty was told that current state law barred the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation from releasing files to the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute,” Barrington said. “HB 3294 cleared the way for the OSBI to release information to other agencies and groups outside law enforcement such as CCIRI in an effort to solve cold cases.”
A cold case is any criminal investigation by a law enforcement agency that has not been solved for (generally) at least one year and, as a result, has been closed from further regular investigations. Cases get closed for a variety of reasons such as: previously available technology was not able to adequately analyze the evidence in order to form a conclusion; witnesses became hostile or uncooperative; various time constraints hindered the investigation; heavy workloads for law enforcement; or the most common, a lack of worthwhile leads stalled the case.
Over 200,000 murders committed in the United States the past fifty years remain unsolved. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, only about 62.6% of homicides are "cleared" each year, leaving a substantial portion of murder cases unresolved. That means over 6,000 murders hit the cold case files every year.
“We’ve worked to ensure law enforcement in Oklahoma can fully utilize important forensic tools such as DNA and other types of crime scene evidence,” Barrington said. “This new law will enable us to take advantage of additional programs and organizations to help us solve cold cases.”
Only time will tell whether the students at CCIRI will be able to solve Shawn Beaty’s murder, but HB 3294 will give Oklahomans like Jerry Beaty the option to get help with cold cases. For their efforts, Barrington, Tibbs, and Governor Henry will receive the first annual ‘Shawn Beaty Award’ in Atlanta on October 7th.