LONG BEACH — More than three years have passed since the murder of Jeffrey Beach.
His parents, Keith and Laurie Beach, have been looking for answers ever since.
“When you lose a child or a loved one, you don’t just pick up and go on,” Laurie said. “The people who know what happened don’t realize the hell we’ve lived the last three years.”
Jeff, age 36, was killed on July 3, 2015, while in town for a softball tournament. He was reportedly assaulted twice and left near the dunes by 120th Place. He died of a traumatic injury to his brain.
There are reports of Jeff getting into a fight the night of his death. His parents say this was somewhat unusual and surprising because Jeff was known as a peacemaker among his family and friends.
“He was never in a fight, so when we hear stories that there was a confrontation on the beach, it’s not consistent at all with who he was,” Keith said.
Left in the dark
Pacific County Sheriff’s Office Detective Ryan Tully was on vacation at the time of the incident, so the case was originally assigned to Deputy Sean Eastham, who works the night shift. Eastham communicated with the Beaches about the incident, Keith said.
On July 31, 2015, Tully told Keith the case had been reassigned to him.
“At that point we lost all connection because the detective told me that we couldn’t talk with him, that we had to go directly to the sheriff,” Keith said.
Since the case’s reassignment, Keith and Laurie typically have to reach out to Sheriff Scott Johnson multiple times before receiving a response, Keith said. Johnson did not respond to three interview requests in time for publication.
Shortly after Jeff’s murder, Keith reached out to the state Office of the Attorney General to learn if there are resources to help small counties solve cases. He learned that the office helps with prosecution, not investigation of cases because counties may have interlocal agreements with surrounding counties. Johnson has told Keith numerous times that PCSO has the case handled and doesn’t need to bring in support from other agencies, Keith said.
“We’re left in limbo,” Keith said. “We understand that Pacific County is a small county with limited resources to investigate a case like this. The sheriff has reminded me many times over the past three years of budget and manpower restraints that make it more difficult to get things done in a case like this.”
The sheriff’s office still considers the case “active,” although it’s not clear what that means. The Beaches aren’t aware of any plans to change the status of Jeff’s case, Keith said. They haven’t received any information about Jeff’s autopsy and toxicology reports.
‘What can we do?’
That’s the question constantly on Keith and Laurie’s minds. They want to make the people who hurt their son accountable and bring closure for their family by understanding what happened.
“Everyday the case remains unsolved, we’re still reminded that we’re victims as well,” Keith said. “I think that gets lost in the shuffle.”
Multiple people have told the Beaches they thought Jeff’s case was solved, Keith said.
PCSO has questioned people but never publicly named any suspects or made arrests. Some witnesses were never contacted for follow-up questioning, according to Keith.
“Our family was quite involved in everything, so to be in a situation where we don’t know what happened is frustrating,” Laurie said. “We can’t get closure because of our lack of having information.”
A reward for information on Jeff’s murder rose to $36,000 in June 2018 after Beacon Plumbing owner Bill Cahill contributed an additional $25,000 to an existing $10,000 reward from Keith and Laurie and $1,000 from Crime Stoppers.
“We were hoping that somebody would step forward and be able to give the sheriff’s office enough to go on so we could change the status of the case, but so far that hasn’t happened,” Keith said.
Not the first
The loss of their son isn’t the first Keith and Laurie have had to face. They lost their 17-year-old daughter Jennifer in 1991 in automobile accident. The Beaches created the Jennifer Beach Foundation in 2001. The foundation serves victims of child abuse and domestic violence in honor of Jennifer, who wrote a poem about an abused child she met and wanted to help.
“When we lost our daughter, we still had a family,” Keith said.
“We want to do whatever we can, which is very limited, in honor of Jeff to make sure that, No. 1, we do whatever we can to help ensure that the hurtful people are caught. But two, that we don’t suffer in this nowhere-land forever, because I don’t think that’s what he would want.”
Jeff loved baseball and helping others.
“He was the kind of person who would give you stuff whether he needed it or not,” Keith said. “If he could help somebody, he would, even if it was detrimental to his own well-being.”
One of Jeff’s friends named her daughter after him. Another had her baby’s photos taken with his baseball glove.
During a trip to San Francisco in 2014, Jeff took a photo gesturing at the intersection of Beach and Mason, in honor of his friend Mason. Mason later took a trip to San Francisco to replicate the photo in Jeff’s honor. Mason combined the two photos and showed them to Keith and Laurie.
Jeff, who was never a runner, helped a friend train for a marathon, so she wouldn’t be running alone at night. He helped opposing players get back on their feet during games. He played catch with kids at the RV park where he stayed during his trip to Long Beach.
“Jeff was not one who told us a lot of this,” Laurie said. “When I would find someone who would tell me ‘Did you know Jeff had done that?’ and I would mention it to Jeff, he would just shrug his shoulders.”
Jeff’s family and friends traveled to Long Beach a year after his death for a softball game in his honor. After every game, Jeff’s teammates honor him with a cheer.
“I think Jeff would want us to be in a place where we didn’t have so many unknowns right now,” Keith said. “In hopes of finding closure, we hope that the sheriff’s office and the prosecutor’s office would use all the tools available to them, which we don’t believe is being done.”