James Barber was sentenced to death and remains on Alabama Death Row for the murder of Dorothy Epps. According to court documents James Barber knew the victim the majority of his life when he decided to rob and murder the elderly woman. James Barber would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
James Barber 2021 Information
|BARBER, JAMES EDWARD
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Paul Desmet testified that George and Dorothy Epps owned a farm; that the Epps had an airstrip/runway and airplanes on the farm that they let other people use; and that, before the victim was killed, her husband had informed some of the people who used the runway that he was going to be out of town and had asked them to help by mowing the runway and checking on the victim. He also testified that he and his girlfriend went to the Epps’ farm around 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 20, 2001, to do some mowing; that one of the other pilots was there and was already mowing; that he knocked on the back door and heard the television playing and dogs barking, but no one answered; that he looked in the back door to the right and yelled, but did not get a response; that he did not remember looking to the left; that he did not notice anything out of the ordinary; and that they stayed for fifteen to twenty minutes and left. Desmet further testified that he called the victim’s house on Monday night, but he did not get an answer. Finally, at about 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22, 2001, he went back to the Epps’ house; that he went to the back door and noticed that everything looked like it had on Sunday; that the television was playing, the dogs were barking, and the lights were on; that he looked in the door to the left and noticed that a stool had been knocked over and that there was an uncharacteristic mess on the floor; that he went in the door, yelled for the victim, looked to his left, and saw the victim on the floor; that he saw a large pool of blood on the floor; that he believed that the victim was dead; and that he immediately contacted law enforcement authorities.
Michael James Beedard testified that he kept his airplane at a hangar on the Epps’ farm; that he went to the farm between 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 20, 2001, to mow the grass and check on the victim; that he spoke to the victim briefly at that time; and that he left around 7:00 p.m. He also testified that, when he was leaving, he noticed Liz Epps’ white Honda Accord station wagon under a carport at a guest house. However, he noted that he had not noticed that vehicle when he arrived that afternoon.
Investigator Brian Chaffin of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department testified that he responded to a call at the victim’s house at approximately 9:16 p.m. on May 22, 2001; that the victim’s dead body was inside of the house to the left of the back door; that he saw a pool of blood and bloody footprints on the hardwood floor; that there were bloody footprints on the victim’s back; that there was a bloody palm print on the countertop; that the bloody palm print had dried; that the bloody palm print was photographed and a portion of the countertop was collected; and that there were blood spatters against the counter and a refrigerator. He also testified that, at approximately 11:30 p.m. on May 24, 2001, he and other officers located the appellant and a female at a motel; took the appellant into custody; took the appellant to meet with Investigator Dwight Edger; and took the appellant’s fingerprints and palm prints.
Esther Braswell testified that the appellant rented an apartment in the basement of her house in May 2001. She also testified that, on Sunday, May 20, 2001, she saw the appellant as she was on her way to go to church; that, when she returned around noon, the appellant’s van was gone; that, around 3:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m., the appellant called and asked her if she could cash a $50 check for him; that she said that she could not, but that she could loan him $30; that the appellant said that he wanted the money so he and Liz Epps could go to a movie; that, around 4:00 p.m., the appellant came to her back door, she gave him the $30, he gave her some spaghetti sauce, and he left; that, around 8:00 p.m., the appellant called, told her that he was on his way home in Liz’s vehicle, told her that his keys were in his van, and asked her to open the back door for him; that she did; that, a few minutes later, she saw the appellant in Liz’s vehicle; that the appellant said that he was going to take a shower and then go to a movie with Liz; that he left about 8:30 p.m.; that, about one hour later, she heard a vehicle and saw the appellant’s van outside; and that the appellant stayed home the rest of the night. Finally, Braswell testified that she next saw the appellant around 11:00 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 23, 2001; that the appellant knocked on her back door and asked if she had heard about the victim; that she said that she had not; that the appellant said that someone had beaten the victim to death; and that the appellant was really nervous.
Roger Morrison testified that there was not any blood evidence in the appellant’s van. He also testified that a search of Liz’s vehicle produced positive presumptive reactions for blood on the driver’s seat near the center console, on the front passenger seat near the center console, on the right side of the backrest of the driver’s seat, on the carpet near the accelerator, on the driver’s side visor, on the driver’s side of the center console, on the right shoulder area of the driver’s seat, on the rear of the front passenger back seat, and on the steering wheel. However, he could not confirm that the stains were actually bloodstains, could not confirm that the blood was human, and could not conduct any DNA testing on the areas because the samples were too small.
Investigator Dwight Edger of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department testified that, at the time of the crime, Liz Epps was driving her father’s vehicle; her vehicle was at the Epps’ farm; and the keys to her vehicle were at a key station in the dining room of the Epps’ house. He also testified regarding three interviews he conducted with the appellant, and videotapes of the interviews were played for the jury.
During the first interview, at 9:49 a.m. on May 23, 2001, the appellant was advised of his Miranda1 rights, waived them, and agreed to talk to Edger; repeatedly asked what happened; stated that he was in shock that someone would hurt the victim; and contended that he did not know anything about the murder.
During the second interview, at approximately 1:11 a.m. on May 25, 2001, the appellant was again advised of his Miranda rights, waived them, and agreed to talk to Edger. When Edger advised him that they had narrowed the time of the victim’s death to between Sunday at 4 p.m. and Monday at 10 p.m., the appellant gave an extremely detailed statement about where he had been and what he was doing during those times. Specifically, he contended that he was at home all day Sunday; that he made a pot of spaghetti, which he cooked all day; that he shared the spaghetti with his landlady; that he got up at about 6 a.m. on Monday; that he went to a certain paint store; that he and his brother Mark worked together until about 5 p.m.; that his sister-in-law cooked a nice dinner; that they watched television, including “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”; that he fell asleep on the couch by about 8 p.m.; that he got up about 6:50 a.m. on Tuesday, and his sister-in-law gave him a hard time because she had already been to the gym to work out; that he worked all day Tuesday; and that he spent Tuesday night with Mark. The appellant also stated that he had been doing work for the victim and that he was not quite finished. Upon questioning, he admitted that the victim owed him some money; that they had had a disagreement about whether she would pay him for the part he had already done or pay him all at once when he finished the work; and that the victim had originally wanted to pay him all at once when he finished the work, but they had agreed that she would pay for the part he had done and pay the remainder when he finished his work. The appellant also admitted that he still used cocaine; that he had used about $500 worth of cocaine during the last three weeks; and that his drug dealer had his van, allegedly because he was too intoxicated to drive. Finally, the appellant consented to a search of his residence and his vehicle, and he stated that he did not want to be a suspect.
During the third interview, at approximately 11:15 a.m. on May 25, 2001, the appellant was again advised of his Miranda rights, waived those rights, and agreed to talk to Edger. Initially, he adamantly denied that he killed the victim, even after being advised that officers had recovered his bloody palm print from the crime scene. Thereafter, however, he became very emotional and stated that, on the day of the murder, he had been using cocaine all day; that he thought about going to a movie with the victim’s daughter Liz, but that Liz was in a meeting until late; that he was really “f—ed up” and did not plan to kill the victim; that he went to the victim’s house in his van; that he was talking to the victim; that he suddenly turned around and hit the victim with his hands and then with a hammer; that he threw the hammer in the trash and took the trash bag; that he took the victim’s purse because it looked good and not to rob her; and that he threw the bag, purse, and his shoes in a dumpster at a carwash. The appellant estimated that he killed the victim around 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2001. He also made statements to the effect that he just wanted to die; that he did not want a trial; that he wanted to be executed; that he did not want to put the family through it; that he was so sorry and felt so bad for the victim’s family; that the crime was senseless and stupid; that he did not want to face the victim’s family; that he did not want attorneys; and that he wanted to be charged and put to death. In addition, he asked if he was going to get the death penalty, and he noted that it would be devastating to his and the victim’s family. The appellant sobbed and cried throughout the interview and even after the interview was over, repeatedly showing remorse for his actions, and stated that he loved the victim and did not know why he had killed her. Finally, he agreed to write a statement at a later time and confirmed that he still consented to a search of his van and his residence.
Edger also testified that, sometime after May 25, 2001, the appellant asked to speak to him; that the appellant tried to give him a location of where he had been to show that he had not committed the murder; that he told the appellant that he had confessed; and that the appellant tried to say that he had not confessed and tried to act like the third interview had not taken place.
Finally, Dr. Embry testified that, based on his examination of the victim’s body, the victim probably died on Sunday or Monday.
The defense presented the following evidence:
Jerry Barclay, a defense attorney who practiced in Madison County, testified regarding a case in which there were discrepancies in DNA test results in a case in which Roger Morrison was involved.
Scott Millhouse testified that he went to the Epps’ farm at approximately 4:30 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22, 2001; that he mowed some grass; that, when he left around 7:15 p.m., he stopped by the back of the house and knocked, but did not get an answer; and that he looked through the back door briefly, but did not see anything.
Mark Barber testified that he is the appellant’s brother and that they helped each other out with work. He also testified that he spoke to the appellant on the telephone around 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 20, 2001; that the appellant sounded like he was asleep; and that the appellant said he was watching television and cooking spaghetti sauce and was going to stay home that day. Barber further testified that he worked with the appellant on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, May 21-23, 2001. He also indicated that the appellant spent the night at his house on Monday and Tuesday nights.
Finally, Elizabeth (“Liz”) Epps testified that she had a relationship with the appellant before May 2001; that they had lived together in 2000, but had broken up because the appellant was using painkillers and cocaine; that the appellant returned to his home in Connecticut; that she later asked the appellant to return to Alabama; and that the appellant was not using drugs or drinking at that time. She also testified that, during the time the victim was killed, she was living in another area and was driving her father’s vehicle; her vehicle was parked at the Epps’ farm; and the keys to her vehicle were in the house. Finally, she examined telephone records from the victim’s house and explained that what appeared to be outgoing calls from the residence after the victim was killed were actually instances in which incoming calls were being bounced to an answering service.