This Week in St. Johns County History: Justin Barber charged in 2002 slaying of his wife




  • In US
  • 2022-07-03 02:30:12Z
  • By The St. Augustine Record
 

Editor's note: This article by Tia Mitchell was published in The St. Augustine Record and Florida Times-Union on July 10, 2004. Justin Barber was found guilty of first-degree murder on June 24, 2006.

Nearly two years after April Lott Barber was fatally shot during a late-night walk on the beach, her husband was arrested in the slaying.

Justin Mertis Barber was charged with first-degree murder shortly after he appeared before the St. Johns County grand jury July 9, 2004. He was booked in the county jail where he is being held without bail.

If Barber, 32, is convicted of first-degree murder, he could face the death penalty.

Justin Barber case: 'One of the most difficult ... murders'

From 2013: Convicted murderer Justin Barber denied new trial

He was with his wife in one of the area's most secluded beaches the night she was killed, and he was also shot several times.

St. Johns County Sheriff Neil Perry has said for a year Barber was the only suspect in the investigation of his 27-year-old wife's death at Guana River State Park on Aug. 17, 2002. He said investigating the case has been a challenge.

"This has been one of the most difficult and complicated murders that I have seen in my career," Perry said. "The crime scene was difficult to interpret, and the husband told us an elaborate and complicated story full of elusive details."

His attorney, Bob Willis of Jacksonville, said Barber traveled to St. Augustine this week when he heard the homicide case was being presented to the grand jury. Barber had been living in Portland, Ore.

Barber maintains his innocence and has always cooperated with authorities, Willis said. Now, they are preparing for court.

"The bad news is he has been indicted, the good news is we get a trial," Willis said. "In a sad sort of way, I'm almost relieved we're getting a trial."

Willis said Perry has been trying the case in the media, and Barber has never had a chance to defend himself. He said the prosecution's case is weak and highly circumstantial.

"We get to call their hand and see what the hell they've got, and I don't think it's going to be enough," Willis said. "In fact I'll go beyond that, I think you're going to be surprised at how little it is."

Barber told authorities he and his wife were walking along the beach in the northern part of the park about 11 p.m. when a man came up to them and asked for cash. He said he and his wife were shot during a struggle.

April Lott Barber's body was found on the beach

He drove about 10 miles north to the intersection of State RA1A and Ponte Vedra Lakes Boulevard where he flagged down a car, the Sheriff's Office said. Barber was taken to Shands Jacksonville hospital where he was treated for multiple gunshot wounds and released two days later.

His wife's body was found on the beach. She had been shot once.

She spent weekends with her husband at his San Marco condominium. During the week, she worked as a radiologist at an oncology center in Thomasville, Ga.

The Barbers had been married three years. They moved to Jacksonville after Justin Barber was transferred. He was a financial planner at that time.

The Sheriff's Office said investigators believe the slaying was motivated by infidelity and about $2.1 million in insurance money. Perry said Barber has not collected any of the money.

The sheriff said he talked to the victim's family Friday afternoon and they were happy to hear that an arrest finally had been made.

"It was very emotional for them," he said, "but they were very pleased."

This article originally appeared on St. Augustine Record: In 2004, Justin Barber was accused in his wife's 2002 slaying

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