FORT LAUDERDALE — As the prime suspect in the deaths of two children found floating in a Delray Beach canal goes on trial Monday, new information has revealed that someone in his home did computer searches on life insurance for kids.
Clem Beauchamp, 34, will not be on trial for murder. Rather, he faces federal charges of illegally possessing a handgun and homemade silencer that could put him in prison for up to 30 years. Although the case is unrelated to any homicides, the absence of a murdered woman will loom large over the trial.
Beauchamp's on-and-off girlfriend, Felicia Brown, 25, was the mother of the two dead children , and she would have been a key witness against Beauchamp had she not turned up dead herself at a Palm Beach County trash processing plant in August.
Federal prosecutors said in court documents filed Friday that they can prove Beauchamp killed Brown, if need be. She disappeared just after agreeing to cooperate against Beauchamp in the gun case and to meet with a federal agent, prosecutors wrote. Beauchamp also reportedly confessed to another detainee after his arrest.
"Beauchamp confessed to killing Felicia Brown while in the U.S. Marshals Service cell block awaiting court in West Palm Beach," prosecutors wrote.
The gun case against Beauchamp culminated on March 3, the day after the bodies of Jermaine McNeil, 10, and Ju'Tyra Allen, 6, were discovered stuffed in luggage that had been tossed into the canal that divides Delray Beach and Boca Raton. The brother and sister had been living with Beauchamp since their mother's disappearance the previous summer.
As Beauchamp was being questioned that afternoon by Delray Beach police, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives moved swiftly to lodge federal gun charges against Beauchamp for an incident dating to October 2009.
The gun charges have allowed federal authorities to hold Beauchamp without bond, and given Delray Beach police extensive time to investigate the deaths of the two children and their mother. A police spokeswoman said Friday that detectives continue their work in the homicides.
With Beauchamp's gun trial set to begin Monday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, a number of issues between the prosecution and defense were hashed out in a Friday hearing before U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas. Beauchamp was in court, shackled and wearing tan jail scrubs, but his participation was limited to answering a few perfunctory questions from the judge.
Robert Berube, the public defender representing Beauchamp, wanted the judge to block any references during the trial from prosecutors or their witnesses that Brown was dead, let alone murdered, as well as any mention of the dead children.
"He is the prime suspect in all of this," Berube told the judge.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John McMillan said the trial — expected to last three days — would be about the alleged gun offenses, and that he did not plan to put on elements of a murder case. But he said it would hurt the prosecution's chances for a conviction if he were only able to tell jurors that Brown was "unavailable," rather than dead. The judge agreed he could tell jurors that Brown was no longer alive.
"I don't see where the government is going to try a murder case here," Dimitrouleas said.
Jurors will still hear from Brown, in the form of a secretly recorded conversation made by her ex-husband.
As part of the gun case, authorities seized two computers from Beauchamp's home. A forensic examination of the hard drives shows someone searched online topics concerning life and burial insurance for children in December 2009, according to newly public court records. Prosecutors say they don't plan to bring that information up during the gun trial.
The forensic computer evidence is key to the prosecution because it also shows someone at Beauchamp's residence searched the Internet for information on building homemade gun silencers.
The gun charges against Beauchamp arose through happenstance, when Brown's car was repossessed from the driveway of his Delray Beach home in October 2009. A tow-yard employee searching the car found a black bag in the trunk containing a .22-caliber revolver, a homemade silencer, 12 rounds of ammunition, a black knit cap and a cigar tube containing fake pieces ofcrack cocaine.
When Brown went to collect her car, she told one of the employees that the items found in the trunk belonged to her boyfriend, according to the charges against Beauchamp.
Brown's role also will be central to other aspects of the prosecution case, including the secretly recorded conversation. "She is inextricably intertwined with the facts of this case," prosecutors wrote in court documents.
Beauchamp's public defender wanted the secret recording excluded, but the judge ruled Friday that prosecutors can play the conversation for jurors.
"It is a profoundly damaging conversation," Berube told the judge. "It is possibly the most damaging piece of evidence the government
A transcript of the conversation filed in court shows Brown admitting she bought the gun for Beauchamp and saying the silencer originated with him.
In April of last year, ATF agent Dan Dooley contacted Brown's ex-husband, Peter Brown, to find out who her current boyfriend was, and learned it was Beauchamp. Later that day, Peter Brown took it upon himself to go to Beauchamp's house, where he secretly recorded his ex-wife while they were sitting in a car.
Peter Brown handed his ex-wife Dooley's business card and urged her to call Dooley, but Felicia Brown was afraid she would get in trouble herself because she was the one who bought the gun for Beauchamp.
"Just call the man and tell the man where you got the gun and you should, you should be free," Peter Brown told her.
Felicia Brown was not so sure.
"Then what do I do? Now I already admitted that this is my gun. So he got to put it on somebody. If he can't put it on this person it's gonna come back to me. Because it was in my car," Brown replied, according to the transcript. "I already said it was my gun. I did purchase it from this dude so then it's all gonna come back on me. That's what I'm saying. The, the, silencer, the gun. Everything."
She was particularly concerned about the silencer.
"And so the thing is they know somebody took a lot of time and effort, spent a lot of time and effort on doing that. You feel me?" Brown asked.
Peter Brown told his ex-wife that Beauchamp had been nothing but trouble for her.
"You got bad luck, man," he said. "You just, since you been f------ with this dude, just bad luck. Bad luck."
"I know," Felicia Brown whispered, with a sigh. "I don't know what to do."