By CRA News Service
WEST PALM BEACH — A grand jury on Thursday returned three first-degree murder indictments against Clem Beauchamp, the Delray Beach man authorities had suspected since March of killing his former girlfriend and murdering her two children seven months later.
Prosecutors immediately announced they would seek the death penalty against Beauchamp, 34, who authorities have been able to keep in custody without bail for the past six months on a federal weapons charge. Beauchamp’s former girlfriend, 25-year-old Felicia Brown, had agreed to become a government witness against him in that case shortly before she disappeared in August 2010.
A heavy machine operator unearthed Brown’s badly decomposing body in a West Palm Beach landfill, but no one identified her until March, after the bodies of her 10-year-old son Jermaine McNeil and 6-year-old daughter Ju’Tyra Allen were discovered in pieces of luggage floating in a Delray Beach canal.
Jermaine and Ju’Tyra had been living with Beauchamp since the disappearance of their mother some seven months earlier. Brown was Beauchamp’s on-and-off girlfriend.
Her body, partially decomposed, went unidentified until the deaths of her children. Brown had the names of the children tattooed on her leg, leading to her identification.
Beauchamp killed Brown by an “unspecified means”; Jermaine was killed by blunt force trauma; and Ju’Tyra was asphyxiated, according to the grand jury indictment.
Authorities would not elaborate on how the children died, and the autopsy results have not been released.
“We go from shock and anguish at the horrific loss of life to a determination that the individual responsible for these crimes be held to account,” said Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe, who held a news conference to announce the charges after the grand jury returned its indictment.
Authorities have not discussed a possible motive in the case.
A message left for Beauchamp’s public defender was not returned by presstime. Beauchamp’s attorney has previously said the man was not involved in the deaths of Brown or her children.
The indictment came after a six-month coordinated investigation by Delray Beach police, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, West Palm Beach police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.
“There is a sense of satisfaction that we were able to do this,” McAuliffe said.
Authorities did not reveal any of the evidence they have gathered against Beauchamp, and the indictment provided no specifics other than the three homicide charges.
McAuliffe on Thursday said the next step in the case will be to prepare for a trial, one in which Beauchamp faces a possible death sentence, a punishment rarely handed down in Palm Beach County.
Defense attorneys Gregg Lerman and Mike Hanrahan say the last time they remember a defendant in Palm Beach state court getting the death penalty was more than 10 year ago, and that sentence was later overturned.
But Lerman points to the 2009 federal death sentences against Ricardo Sanchez and Daniel Troya for the murders of two children on the Florida’s Turnpike as a sign that jurors feel strongly in cases involving children.
For Lowery, who says she has kept in contact with Delray Beach Police detectives throughout the investigation, the indictment has only brought up more questions.
“How could you do that to two kids and their mother that were definitely loved,” Lowery said. “Nobody deserves to be killed, to be murdered. Nobody deserves to have their life taken away.”
The children had been living with Beauchamp and his girlfriend, Michele Dent, in Delray Beach since Brown disappeared.
And though authorities in the past have called Dent a “person of interest” in the murders, Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe declined to say on Thursday whether he anticipated more arrests in the case.
With Delray Beach Police Chief Anthony Strianese, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and other law enforcement officials and prosecutors by his side, McAuliffe told reporters that his office worked with local law enforcement officials and federal agents for months to gather evidence against Beauchamp.
“It was the hard work of the investigators that spent the countless hours getting these indictments solidified,” Strianese said.
Beauchamp will be arraigned on the new charges within ten days.