Family: Jeff wasn’t protected
You didn’t have to spend much time in Palmerton to learn who Jeff Beagle was.
He could often be found visiting the businesses in his neighborhood, usually on his bicycle. He was nice to everyone, always willing to buy a cup of coffee, or lend a cigarette. And he loved to talk about heavy metal music.
But people who knew Jeff say that more and more, he would talk about how his brother, Jonathan threatened to hurt him and his mother. Saturday morning, Jonathan Beagle fatally stabbed Jeff as he slept.
Police were called to the Beagle home many times over the last three years, and according to family members, multiple times in the 24 hours leading up to his death. It leaves them wondering why Jeff wasn’t protected from his killer.
“It’s so sickening that the system failed that bad. Something should have been done years ago with this problem,” said Charles Provost, Jeff’s uncle.
Beagle had special needs, but he was always willing to help businesses with whatever odd jobs they needed. Whether it was the former music store, the library, or the Carbon Mini Mart, he was always willing to help. He also was close with the employees at Country Harvest.
A vigil held Sunday night outside the Carbon Mini Mart captured some of the impact that Jeff had on his neighbors. They released balloons and floating lanterns into the air after sharing stories and prayers for Jeff.
“Jeff had a heart of gold,” said Carl Bush. “He was a blessing to each and every person he knew.”
Though they lived under the same roof with their mother, Jeff and his brother Jonathan’s lives were much different.
Jonathan wasn’t known to many people in town. But Jeff would tell people in town that his brother terrorized him and his mother with threats to hurt them. Strohl recalled Jeff saying that his brother would often threaten to cut out the tongues of him and his mother.
“We all believed him,” said Eric Strohl, a Palmerton resident who knew Jeff from the music store.
Jeff’s uncle, Charles Provost, said he thinks Jonathan’s threats prevented Jeff and his mother from getting protection from him. His sister never revealed any issues with Jonathan, and he had a steady job. But he now believes that Jonathan was making sure that she didn’t reveal what was actually happening in their home.
“If I knew that, I would have moved in. That boy would still be here,” Provost said.
Provost said he only learned after Jeff’s death that his nephew had been warning others of his brother’s threats, and that the police were called to the house dozens of times in the last few years. However no charges were ever filed, and the family never sought a protection from abuse order for Jonathan.
“The system failed my family, and it’s not right. They should have split that household up,” Provost said.
Jeff had told people he wanted to go to a group home. But he wasn’t capable of advocating for himself to get himself out of the situation he was in.
Strohl said that while Jeff was long fearful of his brother, it got worse in recent weeks. For the last week, it caused him to wear his bicycle helmet at all times. He said there were times that Jonathan followed Jeff around town.
On Friday, Jeff told multiple people that Jonathan had told him he was going to kill him and his mother. Palmerton Police stopped at the house to check on the threats, but his mother later told state police that she did not think the threats were serious.
Around 5:30 a.m. Saturday, Jonathan attempted to strangle her with a phone charger cord while she stood in her kitchen. She managed to escape. She tried to get back in, but Jonathan had locked the doors to the house.
Provost said that a neighbor called the police after she was locked out. When they arrived, Jonathan refused to come out. Eventually, he came out holding a bloody knife, and Jeff was found inside on the stairs with a knife wound.
He was pronounced dead at the hospital at 7:39 a.m.
Strohl said that his death was a preventable tragedy.
“He was just a sweet, lovable guy who wouldn’t hurt anybody,” Strohl said. “It’s heartbreaking not only because he was a friend and a fixture in the town, but because he was one of our most vulnerable citizens and needed someone to advocate for him.”
“They all thought it was Jeff making up stories, but he never lied,” Provost said.
The killing occurred after Jonathan attempted to strangle his mother with a phone charger cord. After she escaped, he locked the house.