13-year-old boy testifies at father’s trial for 2019 double homicide

Published 8:36 pm Wednesday, May 26, 2021

NATCHEZ — Samuel Beach, the 13-year-old son of Jonathan Beach, appeared calm and confident when he sat at the witness stand in Sixth District Circuit Court Wednesday afternoon to testify about the killing of two Adams County volunteer firefighters.

Samuel Beach’s father faces two first degree murder charges for the deaths of Troy Whittington, 31, and Jason Haley, 34, who both died of fatal gunshot wounds on March 1, 2019, at 15 Quasar Drive. Samuel Beach was 11 years old at the time.

Jonathan Beach has remained in the Adams County Jail on a $2 million bond since the incident occurred in 2019. Jonathan Beach also received two gunshot wounds during the incident, one in his leg and another in his arm.

Investigators said all three men were armed. However, Whittington’s weapon was fully loaded with rounds that had not been fired.

Wednesday was the first day of hearing testimonies in the trial with Judge Lillie Sanders overseeing the court proceedings. Jury selection took place on Tuesday.

The house where Haley and Whittington where killed belonged to Ashley Beach, Jonathan Beach’s estranged wife and a fellow volunteer for Adams County fire service.

After they all participated in the Krewe of Phoenix Mardi Gras Parade earlier that night, Samuel Beach said his mother hosted a birthday party his younger brother at their house.

Soon there was a loud knock at the door, and the women and children hid in Ashley Beach’s bedroom while Haley and Whittington waited in the kitchen.

Inside the room, Samuel Beach said he could hear his dad say, “Let me talk to my wife.”

Then Samuel said he heard “a big boom” followed by multiple shots and another “big boom” followed by more shots. The children moved from Ashley Beach’s bed to her closet after they heard the gunshots, he said.

Samuel Beach said he heard “the big boom” before when he and his dad were working in a field and came across a snake and his dad shot it.

Assistant District Attorney of Greenville, John Herzog, opened a box containing a .454 Casull that was recovered from the crime scene and asked Samuel Beach if that was the gun he used. Without hesitating, Samuel Beach said yes.

Jonathan Beach’s attorney Zach Jex questioned Samuel Beach’s testimony.

“Obviously, you don’t remember everything that happened that night,” Jex said. “Didn’t you at one point say to me that you heard Jason’s gun go off first?”

Samuel Beach looked confused and said, “No, I never said that.”

“Why are you telling us today that you heard ‘a big boom’ first?” Herzog asked.

Samuel Beach said, “because I swore to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.”

Earlier in the trial, Herzog also called 16-year-old Nathan Harris to the stand. Harris was also in the house visiting with friends the night of the shooting.

Harris said “everyone seemed normal” until the adults said Jonathan Beach was there and told the kids to go into Ashley Beach’s room. Harris said their behavior seemed unusual because Beach had been to the house many times before to visit with his sons.

When Haley and Whittington stayed in the kitchen, Harris said he knew “they had guns on them and they were either reaching for them or already had them drawn.”

Jex said Jonathan Beach made plans with his wife to pick up one of his children earlier that day and walked in on an ambush after Ashley Beach started to ignore his calls and texts.

Jonathan Beach’s trial is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning.