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Photos: Celeste (Beard) Johnson and husband Spencer Cole Johnson
Celeste Beard married Cole Johnson shortly after she'd had Steve Beard killed. As far as is known, they are still married. They met in a bar and went on their honeymoon to Aspen, Colorado.
Celeste Johnson was confident that she'd be acquitted. She wasn't.
"My life is over. I'm devastated. I'm scared. I'm terrified. I don't want to go to prison. I dn't want to be with people that have actually murdered somebody."
Celeste Johnson will be 80 years old before she's eligible for parole. That will be the 40 year mark of a life sentence.
Although Celeste demanded money from the estate of Steve Beard, she's received nothing and will not receive any inheritance because of Texas law. Any meager amounts of money she earns in prison goes to victim restitution as well as into her commissary.
3:00 A.M. Prison lights come on. Celeste Beard walks 1/4 of a mile, all temperatures, all weather, light or darkness, to receive her medicine. The women line up for counting. Then it's a long walk to get clean clothes for the day.
6:00 A.M. Celeste is at work folding laundry in a facility that has no air conditioning. Texas heat can be brutal.
11:00 A.M. Celeste is usually finished. Before she leaves the facility she has to strip, squat and cough and then redress. This is to make sure she hasn't taken anything from the facility that could be made into a weapon or considered contraband
From her photos it's clear Celeste has found out that there are bigger, badder, and meaner people who can out cuss, out scream her in addition to being able to kick her ass.
During her incarceration Celeste was assigned to become a Braile Tactilist, and she became certified as a Transcriber. However, she and two others filed a grievance because they, and a group of other inmates were fired from their positions. Celeste claims they were given "punishment" jobs in the kitchen or laundry while the others were returned to their jobs.
Celeste has even earned a college degree behind bars. Nice to know she's been educated at the taxpayer's expense, when many of those taxpayers can't afford to send their own children, or themselves to college.
"The few friendships I have in here are strong because our loyalty is tested daily." Women's prison is just as dangerous as any other prison. There are fights, jealousy, loyalties, and enmity. Women make weapons out of ordinary things hoping to stick them in a rival, if they're not caught with them first. Inmates pair up in relationships and break up, just as in the outside world.
Night time is a time of noise, radios and yelling. "If voices get too loud, I sit up becuase when a fight occurs, everyone is at risk."
Once it's lights out inmates still get woken up because of body counts.
"Prison is monotonous, mind-numbing and ravages our humanity." It's definitely a far cry from her days gambling away Steve Beard's money at the casinos in Louisiana, or mindless shopping at big name stores in Austin or elsewhere. Purchasing clothing and accessories that she never wore. No more drinks and fancy restaurants, or trips to beautiful locations. <em>"A lot of my spending was compulsive. The biggest tab I ran up in one day was $50,000." Celeste had at least 400 purses, one to match each pair of shoes.
After Steve's death Celeste ran through her monthly allowance and wanted more. The bank refused. Desperate for money Celeste forced her two daughters to take a carful of her shopping, clothing she'd never worn back to the stores to exchange them for money. Both girls have stated that they were embarassed to do this. Unfortunately for Celeste, the stores gave her in store discounts instead of cash back.
"I miss my husband." Specifically meaning Cole Johnson her latest husband.
Previously Celeste said of Steve Beard "I loved him with all my heart. I miss talking to him. I miss being, when I was with him I was so sure of everything." More like "she had everything she could want. "I spent a lot of money. I spent a lot of money redoing the houses all the time. No matter what i ever did, good or bad, in my life, I could tell Steven and he would forgive me." "
"We'd just travel. I loved traveling. And we would take big trips all over the world. Steve was a blast. He would get on those dang wave runners with me and go 55 miles and hour on the lake and we would do that every weekend. We'd go out on the lake."
Steve also adopted Kristina and Jennifer after their father committed suicide, making them his daughters. Kristina Beard "Thank God, for Steven, I considered him my second dad."
Celeste "I never saw him as obese. I never saw him as 70. And he said being around me made him young. He loved me and I loved him."
Now she claims "my life with Steve was all a lie."
During her marriage to Steve, Celeste told her daughters that "she married Steve for his money", that "he disgusted her." After several attempts to poison Steven, it was "why doesn't he just die already."
Celeste told Tracey Tarlton that she didn't love Steven. "It wasn't just Steven's physical appearance that she hated. It was the way he treats her. He just emotionally crushed her all the time, ran her down and belittled her and berated her, and taunted, tortured her emotionally until it left her in these really depressed suicidal states." She didn't want a divorce. She would be come terrified about that. She would say "she couldn't, that he would hunt her down. She could never get out from under him."
"Celeste felt like a prisoner in her own home."
Celeste was "imprisoned in her own home" when she went out on dates with Tracey, attended parties with her or at an ex-husband's home, screwing him, cheating on her husband Steven. She was "imprisoned" when she was off traveling to do shopping without Steven, or when gambling over the casinos in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Prison life has impressed upon Celeste how good she had it on the outside.
Why did I befriend Tracey? Oh, I should have enjoyed clean water, bathtubs and broccoli while I had them. I choose to seek that center of peace inside of me that tells me I did the best I could, the best I knew how, and was as strong as I could have been at the time. The future holds a stronger Celeste Beard Johnson. But today, I do the best I can."
Previously Celeste stated about her daughters "They're the ones that talked behind his back. They hated Steven. They thought he was old. They thought he was no fun. I used to beg them, call him dad. He would love for you to call him dad. And they refused."
"I hate to admit it, but the only reason why they could have turned on me was for the money. I mean, I have to face that fact." "They have two million (money) reasons to lie."
Kristina and Jennifer loved their mother. The same mother that fobbed them off to foster homes, cursed at them, mentally abused them. Despite all that they still loved and cared for her. Yet she treated them as if they were her assistants, not daughters. The same mother who would terrorize them by threats to commit suicide in front of them, placing a gun to her head, threatening to stick a knife down her throat.
Celeste clearly blames her daughters, Kristina in particular, for her being in prison. Speaking of the recorded calls presented at trial Celeste said "there's no excuse for what I did, and I'm sorry that I talked to my daughter that way. I used to say if I didn't cuss her out and didn't tallk to her like that I wouldn't be sitting here."
Now Celeste professes to miss them. "I regret I didn't show that I love my daughters more than life itself."
"I miss my husband, my daughters, mom, and all my family and friends. I miss my "babies"; my dogs who love me unconditionally. I miss all animals because we have no contact with them. I miss fresh fruits and vegetables, real eat, and eating whenever I'm hungry. And yes, I miss making love to my husband beut even more than anything I miss being hugged."
Celeste Johnson still believes she'll get out on appeal, but so far, that hasn't happened. Her chances? Probably nil, but she hasn't fully recognized or accepted that yet.
"I don't think anyone adjusts to this atmosphere. I survived because I DO NOT believe in the future that Texas has mapped out for me. I have hope that justice will prevail because I AM INNOCENT. I will walk away from this nightmare a free and better woman."
I bet Texas, and the law will win on that subject.
Steven Beard - The life and death of Steven Beard
Steven Beard - IN MEMORIAM
Tracy Noylne Tarlton - Celeste Beard - Kristen & Jennifer Beard - Steve Beard - Donna Goodman