Public Safety

16-year-old tells sexual abuser, who worked as C.R. schools custodian, she's a 'survivor' not a victim

Judge sentences former school custodian to 40 years

Cedar Rapids schools custodian Michael Beard speaks to 6th Judicial Senior Judge Robert Sosalla as he enters a guilty pl
Cedar Rapids schools custodian Michael Beard speaks to 6th Judicial Senior Judge Robert Sosalla as he enters a guilty plea for sex abuse at the Linn County Courthouse in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A 16-year-old girl who was sexually abused said Tuesday she has lived day by day “full of anxiety and fear knowing that people are good manipulators.”

“Your mind shuts down (during abuse) and you stop all thoughts,” the girl said in a victim impact statement during the sentencing of Michael Lynn Beard, convicted of four counts of third-degree sexual abuse and sentenced to 40 years in prison. “Suddenly you’re mute and you are no longer in control.”

Everyone tells her it’s not her fault but she can’t stop thinking that she wished she had done something different, she said in the statement read during the sentencing. She is trying to cope with how she was manipulated and felt helpless.

Beard, 54, was a Cedar Rapids schools custodian for about 27 years and most recently worked at Madison Elementary School before being fired when charged in this case. He pleaded to the four counts in September for sexually abusing the girl when she was 14 over a one-year period.

He admitted, during the hearing, to at least four separate sexual acts with the girl between June 11, 2018, and July 28, 2019, at a residence in Cedar Rapids. The incidents did not occur on school grounds.

The girl told authorities that Beard started sexually abusing her when she was 13, but Assistant Linn County Attorney Rena Schulte, after the plea hearing, said she agreed to amend the charges to that one-year period of time in exchange for Beard’s pleas to all four counts.

Beard was adamant that the girl was 14 years old when the sex acts happened. The girl, however, said it started when she was 13, Schulte said.

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The girl, in her statement, also said she was determined to not let her abuser “win” and is now healing.

“I will not let the anxiety and depression demons pull me down,” she said. “This isn’t going to stop me from thriving because guess what? I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor.”

Her father and mother also made statements, asking 6th Judicial District Judge Christopher Bruns to give Beard the maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

Her father said he grappled with how to put into words the pain and ongoing hurt that “this animal” caused his daughter and their family. Beard’s punishment should “reflect the lifetime impact” this has had on his daughter.

“Please don’t let further harm be done by allowing this animal to leave this courtroom with the smiles and smirks he’s shown,” the father said. “Please send a clear message that even the maximum and severest penalty of the law is not enough.”

Her mother said she was angry that Beard stole her daughter’s innocence, her peace and has “marred her for the rest of her life.”

“She had went on mute in so many ways,” the mother continued. “I have a hard time trying to get her to talk. God help us all. There is so much to say but anger comes over me and my words are lost in the clouds.”

Beard, during the hearing, had no remorse, and even blamed the girl and her mother for what happened.

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Judge Bruns sentenced Beard to 10 years on each count and ran the sentences consecutive for 40 years in prison. Bruns noted Beard’s lack of remorse and his blame of others. The only person Beard was sorry for was himself, Bruns added.

Beard will have to register as a sex offender for life and have a special sentence of lifetime parole because this is a sexual offense.

According to school district officials, Beard also worked at Hoover, Grant, Pierce, Coolidge, Truman and Arthur elementary schools; at McKinley, Harding and Taft middle schools; and at Jefferson and Kennedy high schools during his time as custodian.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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