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BILLINGS, Mont. – The three-decade fight for freedom by a Montana man convicted of the 1979 slaying of a teenage classmate appeared to slam shut this week, when the Montana Supreme Court ordered him back to prison and took away his brief taste of normal life.

But from the time he confessed to out-of-state police four years after the notorious killing of Kim Nees, almost nothing about the Barry Beach case has been routine — and advocates promised they will find other ways to prove his innocence.

Beach has been a cause celebre among some influential state and national advocates who say his murder confession was coerced. Years of calls for his release culminated in a 2011 judge’s order freeing him and laying the groundwork for a new trial, with testimony expected from witnesses who allege Nees was killed in an out-of-control fight among girls.

Before Wednesday, Beach had been settling into a new life in Billings, with a house and a job, after more than 27 years in prison for the killing. The state Supreme Court’s reversal of the 2011 order puts Beach back in prison for what will likely be the rest of his life barring some kind of intervention.

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