A 31-year-old man who fatally stabbed his girlfriend in Winton two years ago will probably spend the rest of his life in a mental health facility, after a recent decision by a Merced County judge.
Superior Court Judge Ronald Hansen on Sept. 15 determined James Barrett III was clinically insane when he stabbed 33-year-old Lynn Harper to death inside her 6890 Arlene Drive home during the late evening hours of April 29, 2008. Merced County sheriff's deputies arrived and found the victim dead inside the home -- and Barrett with blood on his hands.
In making his decision, Hansen reviewed reports by psychologists Philip Trompetter, Andrew Neufeld and Phillip Hamm. All three interviewed Barrett and concluded he was insane at the time of the killing.
Still, Barrett admitted to killing Harper and pleaded no contest to second-degree murder with an enhancements for using a knife and previous felony convictions. He received a sentence of 32-years-to-life. Because he was found insane, he will be committed to a locked mental health facility as opposed to state prison, according to Deputy District Attorney Rob Carroll, prosecutor in the case.
For Barrett to be released in the future, the court would have to be petitioned by him or the hospital. Because of the brutality of the crime, however, Carroll said it's doubtful Barrett will ever be released. As for the resolution of the case, Carroll said, "I have to trust that three different doctors know what they're talking about."
Some doctors who interviewed Barrett determined he suffered from a schizo-affective disorder, with symptoms that included hallucinations, thoughts affecting his judgment and an inability to tell right from wrong. Barrett also made references about "the devil" communicating with him, when asked about why he committed the killing.
Deputy Public Defender Caleb Hegland said his client's psychological issues were obvious. "If you spent a few minutes talking with him, you could tell there were significant mental problems," Hegland said.
During Barrett's Sept. 15 hearing, he apologized to the victim's family and the "people of Merced" for killing Harper, Hegland said.
Deputies arrived at the 6890 Arlene Drive residence at 11:33 p.m. after Barrett had called 911, saying he'd stabbed Harper. Deputies entered the residence and saw Barrett lying on the kitchen floor, on his stomach, holding his arms straight out. Barrett had blood on his hands, pants and shoes, according to sheriff's reports.
Harper's body was found in the hallway floor, her chest covered with blood from numerous stab wounds. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
After being detained by deputies in the kitchen, Barrett began yelling various statements, such as "My name is not James, my name is Xavier, Christopher, Satan, Juan, James, Javier, David, Tommy, Kimbo, Jack and Tom." Barrett also yelled "Satan was the one that did that to me," according to a sheriff's audio tape.
Barrett and Harper had several children together, and three children were found sleeping in the house when deputies arrived.
The stabbing wasn't Barrett's first run-in with the law, and he's previously served time in prison. His previous convictions included second-degree robbery and petty theft.
There had also been reports of previous threats Barrett made against Harper, in addition to conflicts and domestic disputes between the couple, according to court records.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.