Former Massena Wellness Center director pleads not guilty to murder; prosecutor says no plea deal
By ANDY GARDNER
The former Massena Wellness Center director accused of a murder in Ithaca has pleaded not guilty after being found competent to stand trial, and the district attorney does not intend to offer a plea deal.
Justin Barkley, 38, is charged with second-degree murder. He is accused of killing 52-year-old William Schumacher on Dec. 8 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.On Friday, Barkley was arraigned for the second time on the charge after having been found not able to participate in his defense. During his initial arraignment in December, Barkley professed to have killed President Donald Trump and tried to plead guilty. The judge refused to accept the plea and ordered a psychiatric evaluation. That lead to him being confined to Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center for a couple of months, where doctors later determined Barkley is able to stand trial.
“[The Friday proceeding] wasn’t really a judicial determination. It was just a confirmation that he’d been returned from Mid-Hudson with confirmation of their determination,” Tompkins County District Attorney Matt Van Houten said. “The judge, defense or prosecution could have continued to raise questions as to his competence, but nobody did.”
He said with the new arraignment, the defense now has 45 days to submit motions before the case moves on.
“There is no trial date. The judge essentially re-started the calendar, the timetable for procedural stepping-stones that take place in any case. He has a new attorney. The judge re-arraigned him, took a new not guilty plea and gave him 45 days to file motions,” Van Houten said. “The next thing the judge did was schedule a conference on April 14, prior to the expiration of the 45 days, to check and see which way the case is going.”
If Barkley’s new attorney, Peter Dumas, intends to use a psychiatric defense, he has until just after the conference to notify the court.
“Notice of intent to use psychiatric evidence is 30 days after the arraignment,” Van Houten said. “Probably the only real issue will be if he files a notice of intent to use psychiatric evidence to assert an affirmation defense of mental disease or defect.”
He does not intend to offer Barkley a plea deal.
“In a case of this seriousness, given the circumstances, there are no mitigating factors. There’s no evidence that can be taken in a way other than that this was a wanton act of violence. There’s no basis to offer a reduction or seek anything less than the maximum penalty,” Van Houten said.
If convicted as charged, Barkley is looking at 25 years to life in state prison.
The prosecutor said the judge will likely set a trial date for October.
“We’re moving along as if the case is going to trial. The judge indicated that trial will probably be in October,” Van Houten said.
When asked about motive or any prior history between Barkley and Schumacher, the DA would not comment.
“I can’t talk about the evidence that we have at this point,” Van Houten said.
However, Ithaca police at the time of the killing said there was no prior history between the deceased and the alleged murderer.
“Investigators have determined that the suspect and the victim did not know each other prior to this incident and they had not had any prior interactions with each other either,” according to a press release at the time from Ithaca police.
Barkley is unlikely to go free while the case moves through the courts, the Tompkins County DA said.
“He’s remaining in the Tompkins County Jail without bail and I don’t anticipate the judge will set bail anytime soon,” Van Houten said.
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, 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.”
He began working at The Office of Children and Family Services’ Finger Lakes Residential Center on May 4 and resigned effective Aug. 8, said Monica Mahaffey, New York State Office of Children & Family Services assistant commissioner for communications.