The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the capital-murder convictions of Tyler Barefield, who was convicted of fatally shooting two trespassers at his salvage yard near Russellville and then hiding their bodies inside a crushed vehicle.
Attorneys for Barefield vowed to appeal the verdict reached by a Pope County jury in 2017. His attorneys argued that forensic evidence failed to link Barefield to the crime. They also argued that the judge had blocked witnesses from testifying regarding an alternative theory, that the victims -- Aaron Brock and Beau DeWitt -- were killed by someone else, possibly with ties to white supremacist groups.
A 6-1 decision by the Supreme Court, however, affirmed the lower court's verdict, keeping intact Barefield's two sentences of life without parole.
Other evidence presented at trial included video surveillance footage from the night of the killings showing Barefield walking around the property with a rifle. He also admitted to crushing the car the morning after, though he said he did not know there were bodies inside, according to court and news records.
Prosecutors suggested that Barefield had become fed up with thefts at his junkyard, so he put on camouflage and waited for the men to arrive, then shot them.
Justice Robin Wynne, writing for the majority, stated that the testimony the defense had wanted to include "merely suggested that others may have had a motive for these crimes or that another person had been publicly accused of having killed two unnamed men."
Because Wynne and the others in the majority found no reversible error, they upheld the conviction.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Josephine "Jo" Hart criticized the majority for a "skewed" analysis of the case, saying that Barefield had been improperly barred from presenting an alternative theory at his trial.
"Mr. Barefield identified a particular suspect, a motive for committing the murders, and evidence tending to show the presence of individuals other than Mr. Barefield at and around the crime scene near the time of the murders," Hart wrote, concluding that she would have sent the case back to a lower court for a new trial.
A third opinion that was a partial dissent, by Justice Rhonda Wood, stated that it was improper to exclude some of the evidence, but otherwise she did not say that the conviction should be overturned.
Barefield's attorney on appeal, Jeff Rosenzweig, expressed dissatisfaction with the Supreme Court's opinion, saying there were "significant constitutional issues" in the case and that he was considering further appeals.
A spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge praised the decision for "ensuring justice for the families of the victims."
Barefield is held at the Varner Supermax prison in Grady, according to the Department of Correction's website.
Metro on 05/17/2019
Print Headline: Convictions affirmed in salvage yard killings