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One of Lifetime’s “Summer of Secrets” movies focuses on Celeste Beard Johnson, who is well known to Oxygen fans as the subject of the first-ever episode of the hit show "Snapped." Beard is behind bars for the murder of her millionaire husband. But, it was her supposed lover who pulled the trigger.
Johnson met Steve Beard, a 68-year-old retired TV executive, while working as a waitress at a country club in Austin, Texas in 1995. They eventually got married and lived a life of luxury. It seemed like the perfect life, but drama ensued after Beard, whose net worth was estimated to be around $10 million, tried to put an end to Johnson’s frivolous spending habits.
Their marriage is depicted in “Secrets of a Gold Digger,” starring Julie Benz, which airs on Lifetime on Sunday at 8 p.m. In it, the character of Johnson enters a mental health facility during the couple’s bumpy patch just as she did in real life.
In the facility, Johnson befriends fellow patient Tracey Tarlton — the woman who would later be convicted for playing a role in Steve's murder. The exact nature of the two women’s relationship is unclear, but according to “Snapped,” they spent a lot of time together and Tarlton harbored romantic feelings. “Secrets of a Gold Digger” depicts them as lovers, and it characterizes Johnson as intentionally manipulating Tarlton.
Their relationship took a deadly turn on Oct. 2, 1999, when an attacker entered the Beards' home and shot Steve in the stomach while he was sleeping in his bed and Celeste was in another room. A lone shotgun shell at the scene eventually led investigators to Tarlton, who owned a shotgun. She was arrested and charged in the attack, but didn't tell investigators anything about Celeste's alleged role in the assault.
Steve survived the initial shooting and even appeared to be on the road to recovery. He left the hospital to continue his recuperation at home, but in January, he died of a blot clot that was believed to be linked to the shooting.
All of a sudden, the charges against Tarlton were upgraded to murder. And on top of that, Celeste appeared to have quickly moved on from their relationship, getting married within six months of Steve's death while Tarlton languished in prison. At that point, Tarlton agreed to testify against Celeste in exchange for a shorter sentence. Celeste was convicted in her husband's death and sentenced to life in prison, while Tarlton received 10 years in prison followed by 12 years of probation.
Where is she now?
Tarlton was released in 2011 and moved to San Antonio. She expressed regret following her release in an interview with local outlet KENS5.
“I don’t wake up one single day without feeling [shame] ... for what I did,” she told the outlet.
Tarlton is due to be taken off parole in August 2021. Oxygen.com was unable to locate her for comment.
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