An Oak Park Heights prison inmate has been charged with strangling another prisoner with a shoelace after discovering that he had molested a child.
Benjamin Heath Beck, 40, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Shane Lawrence Cooper, 30, of Superior, Wis., who was found dead in his cell in December. Beck was seen on video surveillance entering Cooper’s cell, and Beck’s prison identification was found near the body, according to a criminal complaint filed in Washington County District Court.
Beck told investigators that he took the shoelace from a tennis shoe in his room. He fashioned handles and “admitted that he did not believe that [the] victim knew what was coming,” the complaint said. He also said that he knew when corrections officers would do a “room check” and timed the assault accordingly.
Beck is serving a 57-month sentence for first-degree aggravated robbery and first-degree burglary in Fillmore County.
He described himself to investigators as Cooper’s “protector” since Cooper had entered the prison in 2012, although the complaint didn’t explain what Beck meant by that.
“When he found out why victim was incarcerated, defendant indicated to the agents that he could no longer be a protector of someone who had committed this type of crime and that victim did not give him a way out,” the complaint said.
Cooper was serving time for criminal sexual conduct involving a child.
The murder was the first inside the maximum-security prison since it opened in 1982.
Beck has numerous other felony convictions on his record, including two for possession of stolen vehicles and two escapes from confinement. He was charged with Cooper’s death on May 9.
Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037