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Harrison County prosecutor steps down early

CADIZ — Harrison County Prosecutor Owen Beetham is stepping down from the office to allow his successor additional time to prepare for upcoming cases.

Beetham submitted his letter of resignation to the Harrison County Commissioners during Wednesday’s meeting. His last day in office will now be Monday instead of early January. Newly elected prosecutor Lauren Knight will take over at that time.

Knight defeated Beetham in April’s Republican primary election and defeated Democratic challenger Steve Stickles in the Nov. 3 election.

There are many serious matters and criminal trials that will occur early next year as Knight is set to take office and the additional time will allow her to better prepare, Beetham’s resignation letter stated.

“The newly elected prosecutor, Lauren Knight, will need time to prepare for and attend to those and other important issues. To that end, I spoke with her and indicated that I am willing to work with her to move up that transition in order to give her time to prepare for those cases – and hit the ground running so to speak,” he stated.

Beetham said he feels his resignation is necessary to ensure a smooth transition of the office.

“In the past few months, we have faced unprecedented challenges – and in that short time adjusted to change not only the very nature of the way that we live but also the way our public offices and the justice system itself works,” he stated.

“And I don’t want to stand in the way of my successor’s continuing the great legacy of success that we have created. I understand the difficulties of taking office – perhaps more so than others. Prior to my election, I had handled thousands of criminal cases and hundreds of civil matters; Knight doesn’t have the same background – and that’s OK. Like everyone, I too want her to build upon and continue our great success.”

Beetham said his transition into office was a smooth one.

“When I took office, my predecessor was bitter and tried to stay in office longer than he was statutorily permitted, shredded files and left the office in shambles with an upcoming murder trial scheduled on what he thought was the eve of the commencement of my term,” he stated.

Beetham stated his office has had many successes during the past six years he has been in office.

“During my time in office, I assembled the most experienced prosecutor’s office in the history of Harrison County. We doubled the percentage of felony cases that resulted in prison or EOCC sentences, tripled the daily jail population, utilized new and unique drug treatment programs, modernized and computerized the office, authored countess legal opinions, and handled some of the biggest civil matters and public projects since the founding of our county. And I couldn’t have done it without my great staff — Bernie Battistel, Jeff Bruzzese, Jack Felgenhauer, Jessica Norris and Katie Skinner,” he stated.

Beetham said he has begun the orderly transition for Knight in order to facilitate the continued success.

“Over the next few days, we will finalize the organization of the transition. And one component that will make the transition even more seamless, and that I am particularly proud of, is the adoption of a computerized case management software that links the sheriff’s office and the Cadiz Police Department and the prosecutor’s office and saves and organizes all of our cases electronically. We have compiled a list of the pending criminal and civil cases and matters, a list of upcoming pretrial and trial dates, and prepared a 50 page operational manual. Ms. Knight knows where to find me, should she have any questions. I am happy to help should she have any questions,” he stated.

Beetham said he is thankful for the commissioners’ support during his time in office.

Commissioners Paul Coffland, Don Bethel and Dale Norris accepted Beetham’s letter of resignation and appointed Knight as interim prosecutor until she begins her term in January.

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