NBC News’ ‘Dateline: The House in the Woods’ focuses on the brutal murder of Kelley Clayton in September 2015. The young mother was beaten to death in her own home by an intruder in a murder-for-hire plot. In a shocking twist, her husband, Thomas, hired a former employee to carry out the slaying. Michael Beard was that person and was eventually brought to justice, but not before a confession and a recantation. So, if you’re wondering what happened, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Michael Beard?
After Kelley was found murdered, the authorities connected Thomas to Michael through a phone call placed sometime before she was discovered. Michael had previously worked at Thomas’ company and also at ServPro. The latter was owned by one of Thomas’ friends. However, he was fired because of complaints of stealing from clients’ homes. The authorities believed Michael’s motivation was money because he was desperate for it at the time. Furthermore, he was facing eviction by Thomas.
After Michael was arrested, he confessed to the murder, saying Thomas offered him $10,000 to kill his wife. But he recanted it soon after. But through the evidence at hand, the authorities pieced together what might have happened on that fateful night. Sometime before 11 PM, Thomas called Michael, who soon left his home on a bike. He cycled to ServPro, picking up a vehicle Thomas had left for him earlier.
Then, Michael picked up Mark Blandford, a friend. Mark later claimed to know nothing about the murder. He asserted that he only knew Michael was about to commit a crime. For that, Mark was supposed to be the lookout. They stopped close to the Clayton residence around midnight on September 28, 2015, with Michael entering through the garage; Thomas had given him a key. He then went to the bedroom where Kelley was sleeping.
Michael used a maul handle to hit Kelley twice, but she fought him off and ran out, eventually falling down the stairs. Then, Kelley ran into the kitchen, where Michael continued to attack her. After her death, Michael left, changed his clothes, and placed the bloody clothes in a gym bag. He drove back with Mark, dumping the murder weapon, the gym bag, and the keys at different places. Once Michael dropped Mark, he left the truck back at ServPro and then cycled back home. Michael later told the police where to find the previously disposed of items.
Where is Michael Beard Today?
At Michael’s trial, he had a different story. Michael testified that while Thomas did hire him, it wasn’t to kill Kelley. He said it was to set the Clayton residence on fire for insurance money. Michael claimed that Thomas told him the house would be empty, but he panicked upon seeing Kelley dead, so he left without doing anything. The jury didn’t buy the story, and in November 2016, they convicted him of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder.
Following his conviction, Michael was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder and concurrent sentences of 25 years to life for second-degree murder charges. Now about 41-years-old, he remains incarcerated at Auburn Correctional Facility in Cayuga County, New York.
Read More: Where Are Thomas and Kelley Clayton’s Kids Now?