Murder trial of former Massena Wellness Center director pushed back to Jan. 8
MASSENA -- The murder trial of a former Massena Wellness Center program director has been pushed back by several days.
Justin Barkley, 39, was supposed to stand trial for murder in Tompkins County Court on Jan. 4, but that has been moved to Jan. 8, according to Tompkins County District Attorney Matt Van Houten.He said defense attorney Peter Dumas, who is representing Barkley, asked for the shift to accomodate a family vacation.
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. He is being held at the Tompkins County Jail without bail.
In November, Van Houten said Barkley appeared in Tompkins County Court on Nov. 6 for what is known as a Huntley hearing, which would rule on the admissibility of a videotaped interview the defendant gave sometime after the alleged murder.
“Mr. Barkley waived the hearing at his appearance,” Van Houten wrote in an email at the time, meaning that Barkley is not challenging the recording. “It is admissible and will be used at the trial.”
Barkley’s attorney, Peter Dumas, around the same time said the recording was made shortly after Schumacher’s death at the Ithaca Police Department.
“It’s just an interview of Justin Barkley, just a four-hour interview,” Dumas said.
Shortly after Barkley was arrested, the Ithaca Journal reported that he confessed to the killing in a recorded interview.
“I guess I can’t really comment on a confession or not, but I can comment that there were certain admissions that were made on the videotape,” Dumas said.
Dumas said he didn’t want to comment on any psychological or psychiatric defense he may use at trial, but did say he does not intend to use a defense of mental disease or defect.
“I can’t really get into what we’re going to use and not going to use, at this point. However, we aren’t using a mental disease or defect claim,” Dumas said.
In November, Dumas said that Barkley and the alleged victim had not interacted prior to Schumacher’s death.
“It’s my understanding they had never met each other,” Dumas said.
Van Houten has said that he does not intend to offer a plea deal, but would allow Barkley to plead to murder, which would satisfy both of the charges against him and avoid the possibility of a consecutive sentence.
“The defendant is always free to plead guilty to the charges. We will be recommending the maximum sentence and asking the court to impose consecutive sentences for the two counts of the indictment (murder and menacing a police officer). The maximum is 25 to life for murder and 7 years on the menacing charge,” Van Houten said in an email back in November.
“There’s really no win or lose in this case. No matter how you look at this case, it’s a tragedy, both from the point of view of Justin Barkley, and definitely from the point of view of William Schumacher and his family,” Dumas said.
The case has taken a couple of twists since Barkley’s arrest.
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.