GREENE COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - A Leakesville man will spend 35 years behind bars after he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence causing death and tampering with physical evidence. Joseph Talton Beard, 22, made the plea on May 7.
Beard was driving his vehicle on March 24, 2017 under the influence of alcohol when he failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Alice Road and Highway 63 in the Jonathan Community located in Greene County. His failure to stop resulted in him striking another vehicle in which he killed the driver, Lauren Elizabeth Norris, upon impact.
Norris, who was 19, was the salutatorian of her high school class. She was planning to attend college to pursue a nursing degree. Additionally, she was preparing for her wedding on June 24.
"On March 24 2017, tragedy was visited upon Greene County," said district attorney Tony Lawrence. "Lauren Norris, 19 years old, was one of Greene county's finest. Salutatorian of her class, studying to be a nurse, engaged to be married and loved by her family and all who knew her. She lost her life, because another one of Greene county's rising stars decided to drink and drive."
During the investigation, Beard's blood was measured at 0.194% just an hour after the accident. About two hours later, it measured at 0.165%. After the accident, he attempted to persuade passengers in his vehicle to hide not only marijuana but also an ice chest containing alcohol.
The maximum penalty was recommended for his charge of driving under the influence causing death and tampering with physical evidence. Special appointed Circuit Judge, Steve Simpson, sentenced Beard to 25 years to be served at the Mississippi Department of Corrections for his first charge and 10 years for his second one. The sentences will run concurrently. He was also ordered to pay all court costs.
"This incident has horribly affected both the victim and defendant's families and the Greene County community," said Lawrence. "It is a case that will stick with me for the rest of my career. There are no winners in this case. There will only be lasting pain, memories, and lost futures. I hope this case will show our youth that speeding, drinking and driving will cause lasting damage to innocent families and to the whole community."