Defense Argues Husband Was Victim, Not Killer

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - The attorney for a St. Johns County man accused of murdering his wife began his defense by calling to the stand a husband and wife visiting from Tennessee who saw April Barber dead on the beach and Justin Barber with gunshot wounds.

Barber is accused of killing his wife on a St. Johns County beach in August 2002, then shooting himself in order to blame the crime on an attack by a stranger. Prosecutors claim Barber was having affairs and running up credit card debt, and his motive was to collect on a $2.1 million life insurance policy he'd taken out on his wife.

Testifying for the defense Monday, tourist Jason Pryor told the jury he saw Barber's SUV and another car leaving Guana River State Park and saw April Barber's body lying in the sand. He said he checked to see if she had a pulse. She didn't.

Pryor's wife told the jury she saw Justin Barber driving very fast with his lights flashing. He stopped and she testified he had gunshot wounds, but there was not much bleeding.

Barber maintains an unknown gunman attacked the two.

Before resting its case last week, prosecutors put several witnesses on the stand to dispute Justin Barber's version of what happened the night his wife was fatally shot. The final witness for the state was a crime scene analyst who said he doesn't believe Barber moved his wife after she was shot.

Barber told police he and his wife were attacked by a gunman near the water. He said he passed out and awoke to find his wife shot and then dragged her to a boardwalk several hundred feet away.

However, two analysts testified that April Barber was shot where her body was found.

Medical Examiner Dr. Terrence Steiner told the jury that volume of saltwater in April Barber's lungs indicated she nearly drowned. He said based on the blood flow from the wound, it was his opinion April Barber was shot where her body was found, near the boardwalk in the dunes, not near the water.

"It tells me her head was in that position, either there or somewhere else, and kept in that position. If you go anywhere else, the blood's going to change directions," Steiner said.

Jerry Findley was called by the prosecution and agreed with Steiner that the blood flow from April Barber's wound indicates she was shot where her body was found.

Findley also addressed the drag marks in the sand, he said they were not consistent with Barber's claim as to how he dragged her from the water's edge.

"If the body had been moved that many times, the head would change positions at which time the blood flow would have changed positions," Findley said. "When she fell and the blood started ... it was right there. She didn't move."

Defense attorney Bob Willis countered, saying the blood evidence was inconsistent in where it was found and how it got there.

The jury was told that it would be sequestered when deliberations begin later in this week.

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