Jan 6, 2011 12:54 AM by Angela Douglas - KTVQ
ROUNDUP - LATEST: After more than four hours of testimony, a Roundup man has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for killing his neighbor in the summer of 2009.
Bobby Cooksey, 68, received his punishment Wednesday evening in a Musselshell County courtroom. In September, a jury found him guilty of fatally shooting Tracy Lee Beardslee, 48. Cooksey claimed self-defense.
The two men had had an ongoing property dispute and it ended on July 7, 2009 when Cooksey shot Beardslee with a high-powered rifle while Beardslee neighbor was weed-eating along the property line.
Beardslee's family and one close friend testified on the victim's behalf Wednesday afternoon. His ex-wife, three adult children, and sister appeared via video from Michigan during the sentencing. Beardslee's mother, father, and close female friend testified in person.
Beth Martinez, Beardslee's ex-wife, remembered Beardslee as an outgoing, helpful, likeable guy. The two divorced in the late-80s, but claimed they remained close friends.
"It's hard having that connection," Martinez said. "And then losing it for a lifetime."
Martinez and Beardslee's children, Sarah, 28, Joshua, 26, and Jason, 24, shared childhood memories and future dreams they had hoped to share with their father. The death of Beardslee was especially difficult for Sarah because she gave birth to his first and only grandchild three weeks after the murder.
"I feel sad for the fact my son will never know his grandfather," she said. "It hurts. Every kid wants to know their grandfather."
Living in a different state, the victim was not present during a large portion of his kids' childhood. All three were hoping to improve their relationships with him as adults.
"You're always hopeful to spend more time with your parents," Jason said. "That was taken from me and it's very hard to deal with."
All three of Beardslee's children and Martinez forgave Cooksey, but said he deserved life in prison.
"I would hope for a life sentence," Martinez said. "Not because I'm angry, but because it makes sense with what's right."
However, Beardslee's sister, Sandy Griffith, friend, Beth Shelton, and parents, Niles and Marilyn Beardslee weren't as quick to forgive the defendant.
"I am devastated to lose Tracy," Griffith told the court from Michigan. "I do not hate you Bobby Cooksey, but I will never forgive you for taking the life of my brother."
Beardslee's father later testified through tears on his son's behalf.
"Tracy's death has tore the heart out of me," N. Beardslee said in tears. "It's been hell."
The court also heard testimonies from the state's pre-sentence report officer and the doctor who performed Cooksey's psychological evaluation.
Cooksey showed little to no emotion throughout the entire four and a half hour sentencing.
Before Judge Randal Spaulding made his ruling, Cooksey briefly addressed the court.
He complained about three law enforcement officials who, in his eyes, did not do their jobs. Cooksey told the judge that if they had, none of this would have ever happened.
Cooksey then apologized to Beardslee's mother and father, but defended his actions.
The state requested life in prison for Cooksey while public defender Ed Sheehy, requested five years with the Montana Department of Corrections.
Judge Spaulding sentenced the 68-year-old defendant to 50 years in prison with no parole restrictions. Meaning, Cooksey will not be eligible for parole until he serves at least one quarter of his sentence.
Deputy County Attorney Lance Lundval was pleased with the judge's decision.
"The sentence serves the seriousness of the offense and this way the defendant takes responsibility," Lundval said after the sentencing. "Even though it's not a life sentence, any sentence is a life sentence at his age."