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Judge denies bond request for suspect in double murder

 

NATCHEZ — A man charged in a March 1 double homicide will remain in the Adams County Jail without bond after a judge denied his request for bond during a preliminary hearing Tuesday morning.

Southern District Justice Court Judge Eileen Maher denied a bond request in Justice Court Tuesday for Jonathan Beach, 36, who was arrested after a shooting incident just before midnight on March 1 on Quasar Street, just off of U.S. 61 North.

The shooting left two volunteer firefighters dead and Beach injured by gunshot wounds on his right arm and leg.

Jason Haley, 34, and Troy Whittington, 31, were both pronounced dead at approximately 1 a.m. on March 2, both from fatal gunshot wounds in their chest area.

Haley was the fire chief for the Liberty Road Volunteer Fire Department and Whittington was the fire chief for the Lake Montrose Volunteer Fire Department, and both had participated in the Krewe of Phoenix Mardi Gras Parade just hours before the shooting occurred.

During the preliminary hearing, defense attorney, Paul Sullivan questioned an Adams County Sheriff’s Office investigator, Priester Byrne.

Deputies responded to a call about a disturbance at the residence of Beach’s estranged wife, Ashley Beach, just after 10 p.m. — a couple of hours before the shooting occurred, Byrne said, and retrieved a deer camera from the front porch that was believed to have been left there by Jonathan Beach to survey his wife’s activities.

Sullivan asked the investigator if Jonathan Beach had been contacted after the camera was retrieved, and Byrne said he had not.

A second call was received approximately an hour later, stating that Beach was near the residence, Byrne said, and the shooting occurred before deputies arrived.

All three men were armed during the shooting, Byrne said.

Haley held a .45-caliber handgun that had been emptied of rounds and Beach held a .454 Casull revolver that had been fired four times, Byrne said.

Whittington held a 9-millimeter handgun that had not been fired, Byrne said, adding that it remains unclear who fired first.

During the shooting, Ashley Beach, who was a close friend of the two firefighters, barricaded herself and four children in a bedroom, Byrne said. No one else was injured during the shooting.

Sullivan said Jonathan Beach claimed to have been told to pick up his child at the residence earlier that day to spend the night at his house before returning the next day for a birthday party.

Maher interjected and said Sullivan was testifying on the defendant’s behalf, after which Sullivan rephrased and asked Byrne if he had heard of those plans.

Byrne said he could not confirm whether such plans were made, adding that Ashley and Jonathan Beach did speak to each other that day and Ashley Beach later stopped communicating with Jonathan Beach.

Byrne said he believed that Beach was unwelcome at the residence the night the shooting occurred.

Maher said the court found probable cause existed for the case against Beach and bound the case over to the grand jury.

Immediately after the preliminary hearing Sullivan requested a bond hearing and questioned Beach’s older brother, David Beach, and a former co-worker and friend of Beach’s, Freddie Gamberi, who both testified that Jonathan Beach would return for his court date if he were allowed a bond.

“He’s just that type of person,” David Beach said. “He’s responsible.”

Gamberi claimed to know Jonathan Beach “better than he knows himself” after many years of working with him.

“He’s a man of his word,” Gamberi said.

“This court is not going to set bond,” Maher said, adding that any further discussion of a bond would be handled by the Adams County Sixth District Circuit Court.

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