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Published May 10 2012

Andvik trial testimony focuses on affair

MOORHEAD – Tara Andvik’s ex-lover said Thursday that when he heard about the first fire at her rural Barnesville farm last October after their breakup, he became concerned, “because I knew she’d be the type to try to frame me.”

Keith Beam, a TV producer and hunter who worked for “The Wild Outdoors” show on the Outdoor Channel, testified for about 90 minutes on the third day of Andvik’s arson trial in Clay County District Court.

Beam said Andvik first emailed him in November 2010 asking questions about editing video, and their relationship quickly heated up. He referred Andvik and her husband, Matt, to become pro staffers – independent contractors who get paid for providing video of hunting kills – for the TV show.

Beam said he and Tara Andvik were in love and agreed to divorce their spouses. He said he bought a ring and proposed to her last June, but he ended the affair in late July after he learned she had lied about filing for divorce.

After she took out a restraining order against Beam on Aug. 4 – an order that claimed he pressured her to “move the relationship from professional to intimate” – his home and cellphones “were a blur with her calling me,” he said. He obtained a restraining order against her on Aug. 19, and over the next five days, she called him 64 times, he said.

Beam said the Outdoor Channel wouldn’t allow him to work for the show as long as there was a restraining order against him, and he and Andvik agreed to drop the orders on Oct. 28.

Assistant County Attorney Heidi Davies asked Beam if he was responsible for the fires at the Andviks’ farm, two of which destroyed their house and barn.

“Not in any way,” he said.

Beam also said he didn’t pay anyone $50,000 to set the fires – a claim made in three anonymous, handwritten letters mailed to Andvik, her attorney and a Forum reporter last month. The letters were postmarked Auburn, Wyo., and Davies told the jury Tuesday that investigators have since determined Andvik has an ex-boyfriend living in Auburn.

“You wish you never met her?” Davies asked Beam.

“Yes,” he said.

Prosecutors have alleged that Andvik lit a series of fires on the farmstead she and her husband shared in hopes of framing the 46-year-old Beam, who lives in New Glarus, Wis.

Andvik’s defense attorney has suggested it was Beam who sought revenge for how the affair ended.

Details of the affair came to light Thursday in testimony from Beam and married couple Jay and Tammi Gregory, who own “The Wild Outdoors” program.

Beam said he met the Andviks for the first time in person at a trade show in Indianapolis in early January 2011 and introduced them to the Gregorys.

Beam denied pressuring Tara Andvik into an intimate relationship, which he described as a “misery loves company” bond in which both complained about their spouses.

Jay Gregory said he knew the relationship had progressed by around Jan. 10, when Beam showed him a sexually explicit video Andvik had sent him of herself while they were at a trade show.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Andvik’s attorney, Steven Mottinger, asked Beam if he ever told Jay Gregory that he wanted to steal Andvik from her husband.

“I could see me saying that, yes,” Beam said.

Beam said he and Andvik schemed together to plan trips so her husband

wouldn’t want to or be able to attend. Beam said the affair wasn’t a working relationship, other than what they told her husband to justify their trysts.

In April, Andvik and Beam spent a week at the Gregorys’ home in Hamilton, Mo., for turkey hunting season. Beam’s video editing studio also was in the home’s basement.

Tammi Gregory said Beam and Andvik hunted in the mornings, “and then the rest of the day they were in the basement in the bedroom.” When Tammi Gregory’s father died during the week, they continued to stay at the house, she said.

The affair began to sour in mid-July, shortly after Andvik, Beam and the TV show’s other pro staffers attended a film school at the Gregorys’ home. Beam said he and Andvik had a late-night argument when both were drinking, and about three days later, he learned she hadn’t filed the divorce papers.

Jay Gregory suspected Andvik wasn’t being truthful, but Beam was a good friend and he didn’t want to tell him the woman he was in love with was “nuts,” he said.

“I told him, ‘I think you’re going down a bad road here,’ ” he said.

Tammi Gregory said she text-messaged Andvik’s husband and asked him about the divorce, and he indicated it was the first he’d heard of it.

“Everybody found out she’d been lying the whole time about Matt,” Jay Gregory said.

Jay Gregory said he considered getting a restraining order against Andvik because of the messages she started sending to him.

“She scared me,” he said.

He said he also had to tell Andvik to remove photos from Facebook that showed her holding up dead animals by the arrows sticking through them because they were drawing hate messages.

“I said, ‘You know, if you like to kill things, that’s fine, but that’s not what we’re about,’ ” he said.

Beam, whose divorce is almost finalized, said he was interviewed at length by detectives and was able to provide alibis showing he wasn’t in the area at the time of the Andvik fires.

In an apparent attempt to establish motive, Mottinger asked Beam if he was let go from the TV show before or after the fires were set. Beam initially said it was before the fires but then said he wasn’t sure.

Mottinger asked Beam if he was upset with Andvik when the relationship began to fall apart.

“I was heartbroken,” Beam said.

Testimony in the trial resumes Monday. Judge Michael Kirk said the trial is expected to last until at least Tuesday, and possibly into Wednesday.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528