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Date of Issue: December 13, 2007

Police pursue leads in homicide

Hotlines for tips
Authorities are urging anyone with information about Carla Ann Beard's death to call the Holmes Beach Police Department at 941-708-5800. Anonymous tips may also be made to Manatee County Crime Stoppers hotline at 866-634-8477 (TIPS) or click here.
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Beard file photo
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Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine inspects the area where Carla Beard's body was discovered. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Carla Ann Beard left a drug and alcohol treatment center in Sarasota Nov. 26.

She then went missing - and wasn’t found until Dec. 1. Her partially clothed body was discovered in a bed of seagrape leaves about 100 yards from the water’s edge near 50th Street in Holmes Beach.

In the days after the discovery of Beard’s body, the Holmes Beach Police Department sought answers to where Beard, 29, was in the hours before her death by blunt force trauma to the head. The decomposition of the body and the odor at the crime scene suggested to authorities that Beard was killed in the days just after leaving First Step.

HBPD Chief Jay Romine said the department continues to pursue leads in the case, but he declined to elaborate.

A spokesperson at First Step, citing privacy rules, declined to discuss Beard’s stay or the details of her release from the treatment facility. Beard had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge in Sarasota County in July and was scheduled for a court appearance in regards to a fine on Nov. 21.

Authorities believe Beard left First Step in a taxicab bound for a Salvation Army center.

Police received at least one tip that someone who looked like Beard was seen on the beach in Anna Maria, lying with a man in a deep hole in the sand.

Last week, five days after the body was found, the crime scene was quiet and the neighborhood had the air of desertion - no parked cars, no pedestrians, no open windows on the homes.

The visitors, who found Beard’s body while preparing for a party, were long gone. They had been drawn that late Saturday afternoon from a rental property at 50th Street and Fifth Avenue to investigate a foul odor in the area and came across the body.

Last Thursday afternoon, the only people seen in the vicinity were members of a construction crew working a block away on the Tropical Villa housing development at 50th Street and Gulf Drive. They arrived to the work site that day and learned about the homicide, but had not been on the job a week earlier to witness anything.

Two blocks away, a vacationing mother and her two children walked along Gulf Drive, after a morning at Manatee Public Beach.

“It’s terribly frightening that something like this can happen in such a beautiful place,” Nancy Kilgore of Baltimore said. “But ugly things happen in beautiful places.”

On Gulf Drive and 50th Street, a man waiting at a trolley shelter said he often catches a ride at the stop. “I don’t recall ever seeing her,” Ron Mixon said. “I don’t really see a whole lot of people here except when school gets out.”

Romine believes that Beard was killed on the Island, saying that there is no evidence suggesting otherwise.

At least $6,000 in reward money has been offered for information leading to an arrest in Beard’s death.

On Dec. 4, the 45-member Gold Star Club of Manatee County offered a $5,000 reward. The Gold Star Club, a group of citizens, came together at the request of then Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells, who believed large sums of reward money would help local law enforcement agencies collect tips to solve violent crimes.

The club operates in partnership with the Manatee County Crime Stoppers, which has put up a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the Beard case. The county Crime Stoppers operation has received 522 tips in the past year that helped to clear 25 cases and lead to 28 arrests.

Authorities are urging anyone with information about Beard’s death to call the Holmes Beach Police Department at 941-708-5800. Anonymous tips may also be made to Manatee County Crime Stoppers hotline at 866-634-8477 (TIPS) or at www.manateecrimestoppers.com/anonymoustips.html.