Ex-Massena mental health director accused of murder will stand trial Nov. 9
Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 8:54 am


MASSENA -- The murder trial of a former Massena Wellness Center director has been pushed back to November.

Justin Barkley, 38, was originally scheduled to be tried for murder in Tompkins County Court on Sept. 14, but that has been pushed back to Nov. 9, according to Tompkins County District Attorney Matt Van Houten.

Barkley is charged with second-degree murder. He is accused of killing 52-year-old William Schumacher on Dec. 8, 2016 in the Ithaca Walmart parking lot by shooting him with a .30-.06 rifle and running him over with his car. He is also charged with menacing a police officer for firing a shot near police after they chased Barkley to his Dryden home following Schumacher’s death.

Van Houten said the defense intends to use a psychological defense and has not produced an expert report.

“There’s a big asterisk next to that one (Nov. 9 trial date) because we don’t know where things stand with the defendant’s psychological evaluation,” Van Houten said. “If they’re going to assert that defense … they have the right to have the defendant evaluated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nov. 9 date comes and goes.”

He said the prosecution also has the right to have Barkley evaluated by their expert.

“We also have the right to have the defendant evaluated and prepared a rebuttal, essentially to that defense,” he said. “We haven’t started or done ours, but we’re ready to.”

Van Houten said the presiding judge could decide to give the defense a deadline to submit their psych evaluation.

“Most likely that would be something the judge did based upon the trial calendar … and if he was getting pressure from the state Office of Court Administration to resolve the case,” the Tompkins County DA said.

Van Houten said there will be no plea offer. In May, he had offered Barkley a chance to plead guilty to the murder charge, and the defendant agreed, but changed his mind at the last minute. He would have recommended the maximum sentence and Barkley would have avoided being sentenced to the murder and menacing charges consecutively, which could happen if he is found guilty.

“If he was to go in and plead guilty to murder in the second degree and menacing a police officer, that’s his right, but we’re not going to reduce that at all,” Van Houten said.

In March, Barkley was arraigned on the murder and menacing charges for the second time after having been found not able to participate in his defense. During his initial arraignment in December, Barkley professed in court to have killed President Donald Trump and tried to plead guilty. The judge refused to accept the plea and ordered a psychiatric evaluation. That led to him being confined to Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center for a couple of months, where doctors later determined he was fit to stand trial.

The New York State Office of Mental Health said Barkley, a Madrid-Waddington High School graduate, had resigned his position at the Massena Wellness Center prior to Schumacher’s alleged murder.

“Justin Barkley was not employed by the state of New York at the time of this incident. This former employee was a licensed master social worker from September 2008 until May 2016 at St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, where his final position was program director of the Massena Wellness Center,” according to Ben Rosen, who at the time was the OMH Public Information Office director. “In May 2016, he voluntarily left St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center for a position with the Office of Children and Family Services.”

Barkley began working at The Office of Children and Family Services’ Finger Lakes Residential Center on May 4, 2016 and resigned effective Aug. 8, 2016, said Monica Mahaffey, New York State Office of Children & Family Services assistant commissioner for communications.

Barkley’s attorney, Peter Dumas of Dumas and Narrow PC, did not return a request for comment.