ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -

A St. Johns County jury convicted Justin Barber on Saturday morning of the first-degree murder of his wife, rejecting his claim that someone attacked them both as they strolled along a deserted beach.

The jury will return next week to decide whether Barber, 34, should be sentenced to death or to life in prison for the slaying.

With its verdict, the jury found that Barber shot his 27-year-old wife, April, in the face while the couple was at Guana River State Park on Aug. 17, 2002. Investigators said he then turned the gun on himself, firing four shots into his upper body to make the crime look like a robbery.

Prosecutors said the motive was his wife's $2 million life insurance policy.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated 33 hours over four days before returning the verdict just after 11 a.m. Saturday. The decision came shortly after the jury reviewed a taped deposition Barber gave to investigators after the murder.

Harriet Ryan of Court TV said Barber did not flinch as the verdict was read by a court clerk. A gasp of "Yes" went up from the friends and family members of the victim, who packed three rows of the gallery behind prosecutors.

Moments later, as Barber submitted to fingerprinting, his hands shook and he appeared frightened. His mother cried out, "I love you."

Because the state is seeking the death penalty, the jury was required to have a unanimous verdict.

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