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Suspect's mom releases info that points to others

Suspect's mom releases info that points to others

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ORD -- It's the stuff of movie plots.

Two women and two girls vanished in the late 1980s in Nebraska and South Dakota. Three were never found.

Now, the mother of a man facing a murder trial in the disappearance and death of one of them -- Catherine "Cathy" Beard -- has come forward with diary pages mailed to her son's home after his arrest.

Not everyone's convinced, but Ann Rasmussen says the pages point the finger away from her son, John Oldson, and at two brothers and one of their wives and a ranch near Chambers.

"We looked it over and decided, 'Oh wow,'" she said after a Valley County District Court hearing in Oldson's case Tuesday.

The small diary pages, copied six to a sheet, give a twisted, out-of-order account of girls being shackled, held in a cave, bred by the brothers with complicity by the wife, interspersed with talk of sick cattle and visits to town.

Rasmussen turned the pages over to the Nebraska Public Advocacy Commission, which represents her son, after they were mailed to his Randolph, Mo., home in March.

After Oldson's arraignment Tuesday -- he stood mute on a first-degree murder charge -- his frustrated mother handed to members of the media copies of the diary entries, which she believes connect the four disappearances.

Sharon Bald Eagle, 12, and Karen Weeks, 28, went missing in 1984 and 1987, both from Native reservations in South Dakota. Jill Cutshall, 9, was last seen in 1987 on her way to her baby sitter's in Norfolk. Beard, 31, went missing May 31, 1989, after leaving the Some Place Else Tavern in Ord; her body was found April 26, 1992.

"It's not easy reading," Rasmussen said of the diary's contents. "It's pretty disgusting."

In the pages, the female writer jotted down after her husband's death in 1989, and says her brother-in-law helped "get rid of all evdence [sic] here. Caved in hole on hill so no one finds 3 other girls."

That's followed by a list. Sharon Bald Eagle 12 yrs; Jill Dee ? 9 or 10 yrs; Karen Weeks ? Kathy 20+ yrs.

In one entry, the writer talks of a girl they found on a drive to Fremont. She says the girl was walking, wearing no clothes. Her name was Jill.

And of the woman the writer refers to as Kathy, she writes: Sheriff lookin. Askin questions. Did any one see us pick her up.

The writer says "Kathy" eventually was run down with a pickup after she tried to escape and that two of the girls died giving birth.

Rasmussen said she believes the entries were written by a woman who's now 87 and owned a ranch near Chambers. Her husband and his brother are dead.

Rasmussen believes the three did awful things to the girls, and she says law enforcement hasn't looked hard enough for their remains, choosing instead to focus on her son.

Investigators interviewed John Oldson, then 23, days after Beard went missing. He was seen leaving the bar with her that night, and he told investigators she rebuffed the pass he made at her, then broke free when he tried to pull her into his pickup in an alley.

He said she left in a truck with two men, and he went home.

But at a preliminary hearing in May, an investigator said another woman remembered seeing a woman matching Beard's description get in man's pickup that matched Oldson's that night.

One of Beard's friends and co-workers said Oldson confronted her about reporting Beard missing, saying, "Who will they blame when she floats down the river?"

Other people said Oldson made comments about where they should look for Beard's remains, and she eventually was found there. Another said Oldson threatened her after Beard vanished, saying if she wasn't careful "she'd get what Cathy got."

That and more culminated in a murder charge and Oldson's January arrest.

But Tuesday's hearing ended up being all about a defense request for the state to disclose what its investigation into the diary pages and other evidence has revealed that could help Oldson -- like a witness who believes he saw Beard in a Burwell convenience store after she left the bar.

James Mowbray, chief counsel of the Nebraska Public Advocacy Commission, said evidence suggests someone else is responsible for Beard's death, but that's inconsistent with the state's theory of the case.

"My understanding is the state is supposed to seek the truth," he said.

In the end, Judge Karin Noakes set Oldson for trial in November. She also sustained the defense motion requiring the state to disclose what it has found based on the diary pages.

In the courtroom and later outside, Valley County Attorney Glenn Clark made his doubts about the pages clear.

"This matter has been investigated by various agencies extensively already," he said. "It's the consensus of all of us that it is nothing more than a hoax."

Clark said the case still is open, though, and he's looking into it.

That includes interviewing Doug Olson. He used to work at the Chambers ranch, and, Clark believes, he is the man who sent the photocopied pages to Oldson's home in an envelope postmarked Omaha. A warrant in an unrelated case has been issued for his arrest, and Clark said his office will interview Olson when it can.

And, he said, he's considering charging Rasmussen for distributing evidence.

"If we thought it was anything but a hoax, yes, we would work on it day and night," Clark said. "But it's nothing but a hoax."

Valley County Sheriff Casey Hurlburt said his officers and those from the Ord Police Department, Garfield County Sheriff's Office, Nebraska State Patrol and Nebraska Attorney General's Office searched the ranch noted in the graphic diary as the place where the missing girls and women were held captive in a cave and used for sex in the late '80s.

"We searched the property from end to end, inch to inch," Hurlburt said. "We had six ATVs. Every inch of that property was searched, and there's nothing."

Outside the courtroom, Rasmussen said, of course, she wants her son to be exonerated, but she also wants the families of the missing girls to be able to bring them home.

"I don't believe he did it. I never believed that he did it," she said. "No matter what happens, we want the truth to come out and someone to find those girls' remains."

Reach Lori Pilger at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com or follow her on Twitter at LJSpilger.

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Related to this story

Sharon Bald Eagle, 12, missing since Sept. 18, 1984, from Eagle Butte, S.D.

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