Benjamin Beale, accused of strangling and dismembering woman, pleads ‘not guilty’
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Benjamin Beale, the man accused of beating, strangling and dismembering a woman whose torso was found stuffed in a freezer on his Ninth Ward property in January, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday (May 17).
A bit of relief for neighbors on Pauline Street, the graffiti-covered bus where the freezer was found has been removed from Beale’s property, ending a lingering reminder of the horror next door.
The torso of Julia Dardar, a 36-year-old mother of two, was found stored in the freezer, near a bloody power saw, goggles and plastic bags.
Investigators said they also found an alleged meth lab set up in Beale’s kitchen.
Dardar’s estranged husband Micah said she was hooked on the drug when she left her family to live and travel with Beale.
The coroner determined Dardar was beaten and strangled to death.
Now, Beale faces an eight-count indictment handed down by an Orleans Parish grand jury, including charges of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice, as well as weapons and drug charges.
It also includes the simple assault charge brought by Beale’s former wife, who came forward after his arrest and says he was violent when using drugs and threatened to cut her into pieces.
Tuesday morning, Beale pleaded not guilty to all eight charges.
“Most of them come in and plead not guilty,” said William Sothern, an attorney for Beale. “It doesn’t mean they’ll come in and maintain that guilty plea. This is where motions start and we get a trial date to hold him accountable.”
Sothern, who did not want to comment specifically on Tuesday’s proceedings, told the Associated Press last week that the defense would continue to investigate issues involving Beale’s mental health.
That could mean one of two things: Tulane criminal law clinic director Katherine Mattes says mental health is often evaluated to determine competency.
“Are they able to understand the nature of the proceedings? Are they able to assist their lawyer? Or to raise the defense of insanity?” Mattes asked.
Despite the public perception that it’s common, it’s actually very rare to be raised. And it’s very rare that it succeeds.
The state still has to prove the defendant is guilty, but then the defense has to prove the defendant has a mental illness.
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