Opening Statments, Testimony Begin In Husband's Murder Case

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Opening statements and testimony began Monday morning in the trial of a St. Johns County man who prosecutors contend murdered his wife to collect money from her $2 million life-insurance policy.

Justin Barber is accused of shooting and killing his wife, April, on a beach in Guana River State Park in 2002.

Barber has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charges against him. He insists that an unknown gunman shot him and his wife after asking the couple for money. Barber was also shot four times the night his wife was killed.

In opening statements prosecutors painted a picture of Barber as a cheating, money-hungry husband.

"Up at that boardwalk, the evidence will show you, that the defendant then shot her in the face ?shoots one who he thinks is dead from the drown," assistant state attorney Chris France told the jury. "(He) then shoots himself -- all with the same .22-caliber pistol."

Barber's defense attorney, Bob Willis, also talked about the allegation that Barber first tried to drown his wife, asking if that were true, why would Barber shoot her?

"If that happened -- If she was under the water and was near drowning and she was unconscious, why not just hold her in that position, if your purpose is to kill her? Why pull her out of the water, take her all the way up by the boardwalk, where you'd increase your chances of being found, and then shoot her?" Willis said. "And then -- oh by the way -- shoot yourself four separate times, according to their theory."

The first witness to take the stand in the case was the deputy who found April Barber's body the night of her death.

Lt. Benjamin Tanner was the first officer to arrive at the scene of the slaying. He found the body of April Barber, but said that no one else was around.

Also taking the stand Monday was a Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime scene analyst who displayed evidence that included some of the victim's clothing and crime scene videotape that showed images of the victim's body.

Late in the afternoon, the lead investigator on the case for the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office also took the stand.

Witness testimony is expected to resume at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

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