Fairfield Co. sheriff gets justice for old friend nearly 30 years later

Published: Sep. 14, 2010 at 8:45 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2010 at 10:41 PM EDT
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Red Beasley
Red Beasley
Sheriff Herman Young
Sheriff Herman Young
Sandra Beasley, aka Frances Truesdale
Sandra Beasley, aka Frances Truesdale

By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield - bio | email

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, SC (WIS) - On a shelf in Sheriff Herman Young's office sits many pictures -- snapshots of life gone by. It's like any office, really, but there's one picture on that shelf that tells more of a story than any of the others.

"Red," said Young as he wistfully recalled the man in the faded yearbook picture. "Everybody called him Red. Red Beasley."

It was the 1960's, in a town where blacks and whites were not only separated by race, but nearly every other aspect in life.  Young, a black man, became best friends with Red, a white man.

Years before he became sheriff, Young built cars in a Winnsboro shop. That's where the two young men met.

"And I was so close to the family that Red's mom and dad actually called me their son," said Young. "We were so close because of building cars together, we did so much together."

As the two men grew up, Red continued to work on cars and Young became a police officer. Not long after, Red spoke to Young for the very last time, but it wasn't by choice. Red had a stroke that paralyzed half of his body.

"He could not talk," said Young. "Unless you were around him, you didn't know what he was saying or anything."

Despite the communication troubles, Young continued to visit his friend.

"When Red had the stroke, I would go by to see him all the time and his wife Sandra would talk with him," said Young. "Sandra would talk with him, talk with me and I thought she was really taking good care of him."

Red and his wife lived in a home in Winnsboro. It was there Red died -- a slit to the wrist and a bullet to the body. Young's rookie cop instincts immediately told him something wasn't right.

"She said he tried to commit suicide and the wrist that he cut was the hand he was not able to lift anything," said Young. "To cut that wrist, if she had done the opposite, maybe someone would have believed that."

Young researched further and found out the couple's marriage wasn't as it appeared.

"She told his mom and dad she was tired of cleaning [him]," said Young. "She was fed up with him."

Then, he saw for himself. "I went by the house to tell Sandra I would be there if she needed some help with anything and when I drove on the yard, they were having a party inside the house there," he said. "I sat there and cried."

Red's death was ruled a suicide. No one batted an eyelash at the case but Young, but he couldn't prove anything.

Twenty years went by and Young moved up the ranks at the Fairfield County Sheriff's Department. He never did stop thinking about what happened to Red and the circumstances surrounding his death; it nagged him.

Young's hard work and determination moved him to the position of sheriff and one of his first acts was to reopen the case of Red Beasley. "After becoming sheriff, I was in a position where I could have someone look into this," he said.

Young was a different person than the man he was all those years ago. So was Sandra Beasley. In fact, she wasn't even Sandra anymore. She was Frances Truesdale. She married Jerry Truesdale, one of the men she partied with after Red's funeral.

But now, things were different with Sandra. She was convicted of killing her second husband. He was found shot to death in the back of his van near Roanoke, Virginia.

Young got a call from an investigator in Virginia. Truesdale's murder brought Red's case back into the open.

Nearly 30 years after Red's death, Sandra ended up in the Fairfield County Courthouse. Despite a written plea to be pardoned, a jury found her guilty and sentenced her to life in prison.

"When she came here, I could not have any eye to eye contact with her," said Young. "I couldn't. Could not stand to look at her because of what she had done."

Since the trial wrapped up, Truesdale went to prison. But this month she came up for parole and Young got a letter. Young knew what he had to do.
"That's basically what I told them: don't grant her parole," he said.

Beasley could be eligible for parole again.

Young says if the woman who killed his best friend gets out of prison in Virginia, she'll start her sentence in South Carolina.

Justice was served. Young says if Red was alive, he knows just what they would be doing now. "Hopefully still be racing vehicles," he said.

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