Twin daughters recount testifying against their mother in deadly alleged love triangle

Celeste Beard was convicted of murdering her millionaire husband in 2003.

November 18, 2022, 11:52 AM

When Celeste Beard was charged with murdering her husband, Beard's twin daughters had to decide if they would bringing forward a crucial piece of evidence in court that could be used against her.

The latest episode of “20/20” tells the story of Celeste Beard, a woman who would go on trial for the murder of her husband, a self-made millionaire named Steven Beard.

Her alleged lesbian lover, Tracey Tarlton, was convicted of murder after she shot Steven with a shotgun and he died three months later from complications.

Through a plea deal, Tarlton testified that it was Celeste who planned the murder.

“Growing up with Celeste was very unstable,” one of Celeste’s twin daughters, Jennifer Beard, told ABC News. “There were times where we would get dropped off in a foster home and not even understand what happened.”

Celeste Beard's daughters Jennifer Beard and Kristina Fritz during an interview.
ABC News

“She had her moments where she seemed like she was nice,” said her other daughter, Kristina Fritz. “But you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

One particular incident, at a time when Steven and Celeste were planning to get divorced and Celeste was struggling with depression, stood out.

“She got a gun, and then she started just waving it around,” said Kristina. “It was like everybody was fair game in the room. And it was myself, Steve, and her.”

Celeste was eventually voluntarily admitted to the mental health department of a hospital in Austin, Texas, where the family was living. There she befriended Tracey Tarlton and the women's close relationship would prove deadly for Steven.

Tarlton would go on to shoot Steven, which she said was upon Celeste’s request. When Tarlton implicated Celeste in the murder, her daughters had to decide whether they would testify at trial.

Although they were no longer living with her, the twins’ said the relationship with their mother at that point was verbally and psychologically abusive.

“She was saying psychological, horrible stuff,” said Kristina. “So I just started taping our conversations when they would get out of hand.”

In these recordings, which were introduced as evidence in Celeste Beard’s trial, she can be heard yelling at her daughters, crying hysterically, and using profanity.

In a shocking decision, they decided to testify against their mother.

Celeste Beard and Steven Beard.
Courtesy of Nancy Hall

“Did I want to testify against my mom? No. I wanted a mom,” Kristina told ABC News. “I wanted what my kids are getting.”

During the trial, prosecutors Gary Cobb and Allison Wetzel brought forward a piece of evidence, a recording from Kristina's phone that captured Celeste screaming and saying “I hired somebody to kill Tracey.”

Celeste Beard’s lawyers claimed at trial that the tape had been spliced, that Celeste never said that, and that it made it appear worse than it was. The judge ruled the tape was authentic and admissible. Celeste was never charged in connection with the alleged murder for hire plot.

The twins would also testify that their mother would tell them she married Steven for his money, that he disgusted her, and then when he died she would get all of his money.

When he came home from the hospital and hadn’t died from the gunshot wounds, she “took every opportunity she could to speed it along,” Kristina told ABC News. "Celeste had been changing his wounds with dirty hands," she said.

Celeste said "I never changed his bandages; I never did anything like they're saying." Her defense attorney pointed out at trial that she took Steven back to the hospital the day after he returned home when he started to appear unwell.

A family photo showing Steven Beard, Celeste Beard and her daughters Kristina and Jennifer.
Courtesy of Nancy Hall

The defense also tried to argue the twins were testifying against their mother for money, but they denied that.

“I testified against Celeste for justice for Steve,” Jennifer told ABC News.

Celeste Beard was eventually convicted.

Speaking to ABC News correspondent John Quiñones from her jail cell, she told him that what she wanted more than anything was to speak with her daughters.

“I would tell them that I always loved them,” she said. “And I'm sorry that I wasn't the mother that you needed me to be.”

Both of her daughters told ABC News they don’t forgive her.