Murder Convictions Upheld by Michigan Court of Appeals in Two 2011 Van Buren County Killings

In August of 2011, Junior Lee Beebe Jr. was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, 36-year-old Tonya Howarth, and 30-year-old Amy Henslee, Beebe’s cousin’s wife. He was convicted on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Howarth, and one count of second-degree murder in the death of Henslee.

Now, the Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the murder convictions, after Beebe’s attorneys argued there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions.

Beebe was convicted of shooting the two women in January 2011, however a Michigan state police detective testified during the trial that Beebe claimed Howarth found Beebe and Henslee together in the house trailer where he lived, and proceeded to shoot Henslee. Beebe told the detective that he shot Howarth in self defense. The bodies of Howarth and Henslee were found in close proximity to the trailer in a shallow grave. Beebe did not testify in his own defense.

James Henslee, husband of Amy Henslee, said following the conviction that he was “thrilled” that his cousin was found guilty of murdering his wife. He further went on to say, “Where there’s God there’s a way and he came through today.”

The Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed with Beebe’s defense attorneys’ claims that the evidence against their client was insufficient, saying that the jury simply did not believe the story in which Beebe claimed Howarth shot Henslee, then acted in self-defense, and that Beebe was the only witness to the shootings.

Beebe was sentenced to two life terms in the killings.

Michigan murder appeals attorneys know that judges are supposed to remain impartial when instructing a jury or answering questions, and that jurors are supposed to have no preconceived opinions regarding defendants in murder cases; however, this is not always the case.

If you have been convicted of murder and are innocent, or feel that mistakes were made in the legal process, consult with an experienced Michigan post-conviction lawyer who can review your case and determine if you may be eligible for an appeal.

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