816 North

Nebraska jury convicts KC area man in cold-case murder

A man who lived quietly in the Kansas City area for years now faces a long prison sentence in Nebraska for a crime he tried to leave behind.

John Russell Oldson, formerly of Ord., Neb., moved in with his mother in Independence in 2005 before he got married and moved with his wife to Randolph in Clay County.

While he was in the area, apparently the only trouble he got into with the law resulted in a $10 fine for failure to wear a seat belt.

But in 1989, authorities say, he killed a woman who left a bar with him but refused his sexual advances. Oldson, now 46, had always been a prime suspect in the death of Catherine Beard, a 31-year-old waitress from Ord who disappeared after being seen with him.

Oldson told investigators at the time that his “hormones got the better of him” and he tried to pull Beard into his pickup truck, but she broke free and fell to the ground. He said she then got into another vehicle and was driven away.

Beard’s remains were not discovered until 1992, in a shallow grave outside Ord, about 60 miles north of Grand Island. An autopsy showed she had been beaten and stabbed.

Oldson was questioned again, but authorities still couldn’t make a case against him. New witnesses emerged in 2011, however, and Oldson was arrested in Clay County a year ago.

A jury in Howard County, Neb., on Friday found him guilty of second-degree murder. He will be sentenced in April.

Oldson has three prior convictions for assaulting women and one for felony child abuse for sticking needles into the abdomens of his two stepdaughters.