The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

May 9, 2013

Trial starts for man accused in wife's death

By MARY RAINWATER
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — State attorneys presented a full day of testimony on Wednesday in the murder trial of a Montalba man accused in the 2011 beating death of his wife, hearing from a neighbor involved in the incident, a forensics expert, a medical examiner and local law enforcement officers.

Noble Lee Barrett Jr., 55, is accused of the murder of Beverly Carey Barrett, after he administered blunt force blows to his wife’s head at the couple’s residence in the 1500 block of FM 321 on Dec. 3, 2011, resulting in the woman’s death.

First to take the stand was Linda Wickware, a neighbor of the Barretts who lived across the street. Wickware reported that the defendant, who made his living doing odd jobs, was at their home the morning of the incident doing some floor repairs.

“About 30 minutes after he got there, she (Beverly Barrett) called and he went over there for a few minutes,” the witness testified. “He wasn’t gone long. He came back and went back under the house to continue working.”

Some time later, Barrett told the Wickwares that he needed to return home again to get a board to complete the repair work. He returned a few minutes later, Wickware said.

“He came running in the house wanting me to come over there — that (Brenda, a nickname for the victim) was bleeding,” Wickware said. “He went on ahead of me and I went to the house — just a few minutes behind him.”

Beverly Barrett, the witness testified, was sitting up on a couch located inside a screened-in porch area. The victim’s head, which had a huge gash, was leaning backwards.

“She was non-responsive and I noticed the gash on her head,” Wickware testified. “My first thought was that she was dead. I asked (Noble) if he had called 911 and he said no, so I called 911.”

Beverly Barrett’s daughter Sherella Watson also testified for the state, explaining events as she recalled them on the day of her mother’s death.

She had been expecting a call from her mother earlier that morning, and had missed a call from her while getting her children ready so she could go to work.

“I returned the call and it went to voicemail,” she testified. “I didn’t think anything about it at the time.”

During a break at work, Watson noticed several missed calls on her phone, as well as a text that said, “Your mom is dead.”

“All I could think was ‘what did he do to her? What had he done?,’” she testified.

Palestine Regional Medical Center paramedics Doug St. Clair and Wendy Jacobs  took the stand, testifying as to the condition of the victim and some details of what was happening at the scene.

“When I got to her, she was non responsive — unconscious, not breathing and no pulse, and she had a massive wound on her forehead,” St. Clair said. “There was a lot of blood there, but no bleeding, which implied that her heart was not pumping blood.”

When paramedics moved Beverly Barrett to the backboard for transport to the ambulance, blood began pumping from her head, St. Clair testified.

“We had been using a (breathing bag) on her, and every time I would ‘breathe,’ the bag, more blood would shoot everywhere,” he said. “There was no pressure getting to the wound in the upright position, but when we laid her down, there was no stopping it.”

Both St. Clair and Jacobs attested as to Noble Barrett’s demeanor at the scene, describing it as “inappropriate” and “passive.”

“He was standing next to me while I was treating his wife,” Jacobs testified. “I asked him what happened and he just shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘I don’t know.’

“He was very passive and unemotional,” she added. “He showed no emotion whatsoever.”

Anderson County Sheriff’s Office deputy Charles Conner was first to respond to the Barrett residence, administering CPR on the victim until EMS arrived to take over.

He reported calling his supervisor Sgt. Brian Chason because “it didn’t look right,” he said.

Chason, also testifying for the state on Wednesday, reported arriving at the Barrett residence about 30 minutes after the call was received at dispatch.

“Mr. Barrett had a very matter-of-fact demeanor,” Chason testified. “He didn’t seem too upset at this point (when being interviewed at the scene).”

Chason stated that he noticed Noble Barrett had a “reddish liquid” on his jacket, as well as on his glasses, face and pants.

“He informed me that he had found her inside,” Chason said. “He said he moved her from the inside to the outside because she said she couldn’t breathe. We went into the house and he showed me where he found her.”

During the walk-through, Chason testified that he saw blood on the couch in the “television room,” on the porch and in a bucket.

He noticed broken figurines and a table (later identified as a cabinet) with broken shelves, also in the television room. What appeared to be bloody drag marks were also seen.

“The first impression I got was that there was more to the story than what I was being told,” Chason said. “It appeared that a struggle had ensued inside the house. So, at that point, I asked him (Barrett) to step outside of the house.”

In continuing the investigation, Chason immediately began taking pictures at the scene, finding massive amounts of blood in the formal living room at the residence.

“Mr. Barrett did not mention being in that room at all,” he testified. “There was clothing there in a laundry basket with a large amount of blood.”

ACSO Sgt. Investigator Ronnie Foster soon after arrived at the scene to help with the investigation.

“It was a violent crime scene,” Foster testified. “There was evidence of a struggle — evidence that was completely contrary to (Noble Barrett’s) story.”

After witnessing the victim’s autopsy on Dec. 6, 2011, Foster returned to the Barrett home to find the item used in the victim’s death.

“The medical examiner had said it appeared that she had been hit with something cylindrical,” Foster testified. “And because I knew I had not gathered any evidence of that type from the scene, I got another search warrant and went back to the residence.”

The item, later shown to the jury, was found by investigators in the residence’s attic, just inside the opening.

“It appeared to be an ax handle reinforced with wire with what felt like screw heads sticking up, and it was wrapped in tape,” Foster testified. “It is a club. In my opinion, it has no purpose except for fighting.”

Foster also testified to subsequent testing of Noble Barrett’s clothing and a couch in the formal living room at the residence — both of which were tested with a substance called Blue Star, which is used to illuminate hidden blood evidence.

“There was a lot of blood (on his clothes), some of it was from transfer,” Foster testified, explaining that most of the blood was located on the front of the clothing, with some found on the back as well.

A large amount of blood was also located on the formal living room sofa.

“That tells me that (the formal living room) was the primary crime scene,” Foster said. “That she was beaten there to the point of death.”

Also on Wednesday:

• Kimberlee Mack, a forensic pathologist from the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab in Garland, testified as to results of blood and DNA evidence tested from the scene.

Every item sent to the lab for testing, including Noble Barrett’s clothing, a sheet used to divide rooms, the suspected weapon and swabs of suspected blood found on walls and furniture in the residence — all contained areas that tested positive for presumptive blood.

DNA evidence revealed Beverly Barrett’s blood on the living room walls, the sheet, Noble Barrett’s clothing and glasses and on the handle and end of the weapon.

• Dr. John Stash, a  medical examiner from Tyler, revealed Beverly Barrett’s cause of death to be multiple blunt force traumas, with the manner of death to be homicide.

In addition to the gash on the forehead, which fractured the outer portion of the skull in the sinus area, three other gashes were located on Barrett’s skull. Barrett’s brain was found to have swollen to the point of pressing into the base of the skull, causing brain damage.

State testimony was scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. today in the district courtroom on the second floor of the Anderson County Courthouse, with 349th State District Judge Pam Foster Fletcher presiding over the trial.

Representing the state are Anderson County Assistant District Attorneys Elizabeth Watkins and Scott Holden. The defense is represented by Palestine attorney William House Jr.

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Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at mrainwater@palestineherald.com