Tuesday, November 23, 1999

Friends say woman was afraid for life

Ex-boyfriend on trial for her murder

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Josh Johnson sprinted the two blocks from his Morrow apartment to the house where his friend Brandy Southworth was staying after Ms. Southworth phoned, pleading for help that evening last July.

        But Mr. Johnson was too late. He found Ms. Southworth, 19, lying face down in the front yard, stabbed numerous times.

        “She screamed. She didn't want to be there by herself,” he recalled Monday, as he testified for the prosecution in the murder trial of Andrew Beckman. “I saw blood on the porch. I stepped up onto the porch and I saw Brandy in front of it. It didn't look like she was alive.”

        Mr. Johnson was among the nearly dozen prosecution witnesses called during the first day of Mr. Beckman's aggravated murder trial. Mr. Beckman, 21, of Harlan Township is accused of killing Ms. Southworth — his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his 6-month-old son — in Morrow while she was alone with the infant.

        The brutal killing occurred less than three weeks after a judge ordered Mr. Beckman into a domestic abusers program for beating the young woman in May.

        Detective J.R. Abshear, of the Warren County Sheriff's Office, said on the stand Monday that blood taken from Mr. Beckman's clothes was that of Ms. Southworth, and that the house had not appeared to have been broken into.

        The detective also interviewed Mr. Beckman at the Warren County Jail, but said Mr. Beckman wouldn't waive his rights.

        “I believe he said something to the effect of, "I killed her didn't I?'” Detective Abshear said. “He seemed distraught, sobbing, crying. There was blood on his hands.”

        Morrow Police Officer Harry Lydon said he found Mr. Beckman lying on the ground about two blocks from where the stabbing occurred.

        “The man lying in the yard said, "I'm the one you're looking for,'” the officer said. “He said he was having a really bad night.”

        Steve Ernst, Ms. Southworth's brother-in-law, said he talked with her shortly before she died.

        She told him she was afraid. He urged her to get out of the house and offered to come pick her up, but she turned him down.

        More than a dozen young people, many of them friends of Ms. Southworth, filled the small courtroom gallery.

        Prosecutors presented several graphic photos of the murder scene and Ms. Southworth's body. Mr. Beckman sat silently next to his attorney, Charlie Rittgers. His hands were folded under his chin.

        At times, he would shake.

        On Friday Mr. Beckman waived his right to a jury trial. Warren County Common Pleas Judge Neal Bronson is hearing the case.


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