Video Update: Mother Accused of Arson, Two Sides Come Out

By: Ann McIntire, Jodi Baker Email
By: Ann McIntire, Jodi Baker Email

Bond has been set at $300,000 for Tanesha Beard, who's accused of setting an Omaha home on fire. Her children initially took the blame, after Beard's boyfriend was severely burned inside the home.

Beard, 30, was arrested Tuesday for Arson and Assault, accused of setting fire to the home she shared with her boyfriend Friday morning. She's also charged with four counts of Child Neglect, because her four children were home at the time.

Firefighters were called to the house at 135th and Atwood Avenue that morning. Beard and her four children were in the front yard. Her boyfriend, 37-year-old Jermaine Westbrook, was rushed to the hospital with serious burns.

Investigators discovered an accelerant had been used, initially believing Beard's 10-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy started the fire in the bedroom where Westbrook had been sleeping. Prosecutors said in court Wednesday, it was Beard who bought a gallon of gasoline, doused the house, and set it on fire.

Beard's family and friends say she was acting out of self-defense. "She said that she was just afraid of this guy, she was terrified and didn't know what to do," said Danny Robinson, a family friend.

Beard and Westbrook had been together for the past three years, but her family says it was tumultuous. "She was a very abused woman by Jermaine, there'd been many nights she'd come to my house, three or four o clock in the morning, being beaten," said Robinson. "One situation, where he had beaten her with a chair, taken all the phones in the house, so [the children] couldn't call the police, and then telling the children if they called the police he would kill them and their mom, and then made the kids clean the blood up, I know this happened."

Robinson also said the two children who initially took the blame for the fire, took the fall on their own. "They shared with me the fact this guy has beaten their mom in front of them, and I think what they did, they saw how much their mom had suffered, they didn't want her to go through the trials and tribulations, of what she did, as far as if she did set the fire, they said it themselves they set it, she didn't coerce them to say that."

Caresley Tony is Westbrook's cousin, and says the $300,000 bond is not right. "It's not enough, it should've been higher, because he didn't do nothing to deserve that."

Westbrook suffered severe burns to nearly half his body. He initially was taken to CUMC, but had to be flown to Saint Elizabeth's Hospital Burn Center in Lincoln.

"He goes in for another surgery today, he had one Monday, so he has another one today, but they say it's going to be two to three months before anything good," said Tony.

Beard will be back in court on April 20th. She is to have no contact with any of her children or Westbrook.

Posted March 27, 2012

The mother of two children accused of setting an Omaha home on fire is now behind bars.

Thirty-year-old Tanesha Beard was arrested on arson and assault charges.

On Friday, firefighters were called to 135th and Atwood Avenue where a man was trapped inside a burning home. Investigators believe a 10-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy set a bedroom on fire with an accelerant, while 37-year-old Jermaine Westbrook was in bed.

When firefighters arrived, Westbrook's girlfriend and her four children were in the front yard. The victim was rushed to the hospital.

The half-brother of the kids, David Vaughn, says that they didn't set the room on fire, and believes it was actually their mother who was behind it. The young boy and girl are now at the Douglas County Youth Center charged with 1st Degree Arson.

"I know that the mother was the one that caused the fire. She's got them taking the blame for it to cover her up. We've got two little kids that are taking charges for something they didn't do,” Vaughn described. “You're supposed to protect your child, take care of them, and not put them in situations like this. This is not protecting your child."

The children's father, wouldn't go on camera, but did say that they are intelligent kids and know the consequences of setting a fire.

Westbrook suffered severe burns to nearly half his body. He initially was taken to CUMC, but had to be flown to Saint Elizabeth's Hospital Burn Center in Lincoln. Vaughn says he's hoping Westbrook recovers.

"I am supporting him, but right now we're trying to get the kids out of the situation and get the right person behind bars like they're supposed to be," Vaughn explained.

A call to Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine about the family's claim wasn't returned on Sunday.

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