GALVESTON COUNTY -

Nearly 30 years after a woman's body was discovered stuffed under a discarded couch near the Galveston causeway, her accused killer faced a judge and jury.

Clyde Edwin Hedrick, 60, is charged with murdering Ellen Rae Beason, 29, in 1984 and then trying to hide her body.

Hedrick has pleaded not guilty to the charge and claims Beason accidentally drowned while the pair was "skinny dipping." Hedrick said he hid Beason's body because he was scared no one would believe her death was accidental.

Beason's body was not discovered until several months after her death.

Initially, the Galveston County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Beason's death as "undetermined." As a result of that ruling Hedrick was only convicted of abuse of a corpse in 1986. Several years later Beason's body was exhumed and a new forensic examination ruled her death was caused by a blow to the back of the head.

"When you look at the fracture that was caused, the degree of force that was used, this would have caused death," Galveston County prosecutor Kevin Petroff told jurors during opening statements.

Hedrick's defense attorney, Jeremy DuCote, told jurors the fracture in the back of Beason's skull was not the result of a criminal act.

"It's part of and was part of the normal decaying process that every human being body goes through," said DuCote.

A former girlfriend of Hedrick's took the stand Tuesday for the prosecution. Candy Gifford was friends with Beason and told jurors she continually questioned Hedrick about her disappearance. Gifford testified Hedrick eventually showed her where he left Beason's remains. Gifford also testified she believed Hedrick threatened her and her family's lives if she went to police.

Gifford said several months later she went to police and then led them to Beason's body. DuCote questioned Gifford as to why she never testified during Hedrick's 1986 trial that she had been threatened. During opening statements DuCote also told jurors he believed Gifford's testimony was that of a scorned lover.

"She came to the state, not because she wanted to do the right thing, but because she was mad at Clyde," DuCote said.

Watching this trial from the gallery is the founder of Texas Equusearch, Tim Miller. As Local 2 reported in January, court filings indicated prosecutors may bring up information that Hedrick was also involved in the murders of Laura Miller and Heidi Marie Fye. Both murders remain unsolved.

"This is the closest I've ever been to him," said Miller. "A lot of heart palpitations, a lot of anxieties, difficult being there but it would be harder not being there."

Fye's family was also in court to watch the trial.

During a jailhouse interview with Local 2 in January Hedrick denied any involvement in the murders. Hedrick has not been charged in those cases.

"They're trying to pin me for the 'Killing Fields' murders," Hedrick told Local 2. "I didn't kill her. I didn't even know her. I've never hurt anybody in my life. I don't hurt women."