|Secrets In The
A Wife Is Murdered, Her Husband Shot Four Times.
Who Pulled The Trigger?
(CBS) April Barber had the kind of wedding most
girls only dream about: a beach in the Bahamas,
at sunset, a beautiful dress and a handsome
groom, Justin Barber.
But April's aunt, Patty Parrish, says April was hardly a
traditional bride. "She was more of a country girl at
heart," Patty remembers. "She had a gorgeous white dress
that I remember cramming into her suitcase, and here we
are trying to get the wrinkles out of it the day of the
If anyone deserved such a happy day, it was April; so
many of the days before it had been difficult and sad.
"Her mother had passed away when April was 17. She died
from cancer and that was very difficult," Justin
As 48 Hours correspondent Harold Dow reports, her
motherís death made April grow up fast. Her father fell
apart and later got into trouble over drugs. So April
briefly took over the mothering of her younger brother
Kendon, who was only one, and her sister, Julie, who was
"She took care of us. She would get me up for school,
get me off to school. She'd cook us dinner. She just
took the place of our mother," Julie remembers.
Losing her mother also gave April's life a purpose: she
went to college determined to pursue a career in
medicine, treating cancer patients.
"She definitely didn't take life for granted, and had
pretty clear goals about what she wanted out of life,"
remembers April's best friend Amber Mitchell. She says
college also opened up a whole new world for April.
In 1998, when she was 23, April's world became even
brighter. She met Justin, at the time a top student in
the University of Oklahomaís MBA program. Amber was
there the night they met.
When Justin first brought April home, his mother, Linda,
took to her right away.
"I liked her immediately. She was very beautiful. Very
natural. You could just tell she was a good person. She
was just wonderful. She fit in real well with the
family," Linda remembers.
It was just ten months after they began dating that
Justin and April eloped to the Bahamas.
"I was worried that it was really quick and maybe they
didnít know each other well enough yet to do that. But I
supported her completely, because she was happy and I
wanted to see her happy," Amber remembers.
When they returned from the honeymoon, April and Justin
moved to Georgia for work. And April's siblings, Julie
and Kendon, came to live with them for a while. But it
didnít lastóit was too much for the young couple to
"Of course it was difficult for them, 'cause they were
so young and trying to raise two kids. It was very hard,
I understood that. But they tried their hardest to give
us everything that we could possibly want or need,"
Then, just two years into the marriage, Justin and
April's careers forced them apart. April, who worked in
radiology, took a new job in Georgia. But Justin, a
business executive, was transferred to Jacksonville,
Fla., nearly three hours away. They saw each other
mainly on weekends.
Asked if he wanted April to quit her job and live with
him, Justin says, "It wasn't just a normal job that she
took there, it was the next step up in her career. And
it was a very, very good opportunity for her at an early
age. And so I fully supported that."
They had lived like this for more than a year
when, in the summer of 2002, April came to
Jacksonville to celebrate their third wedding
anniversary. On the night of Saturday, Aug. 17,
they went out for dinner and drinks.
After dinner, Justin says the couple shot a few
games of pool and then went for a drive.
Justin says their destination was a remote state beach,
where he and April had been before. "We had been there a
few times before. April's previous birthday, and I think
perhaps our anniversary the year before. It was a place
that we would go to be alone on the beach," he explains.
The couple took off their shoes and started walking
along the shoreline. Suddenly, Justin says, a strange
and threatening man appeared right in front of them.
"He was Caucasian. He had a hat on. It's a dark hat with
a logo," Justin tells Dow.
Asked if he thinks it was a robbery, Justin says "Yes."
He also says he saw a gun.
Justin says he lunged at the man. Then shots rang out.
Justin doesnít remember what happened nextóhe thinks he
When he came to, he says he didn't see anything at
firstóApril was nowhere to be seen and didn't respond to
Justinís wife and his attacker had both disappeared into
the darkness. "I ran down the beach. I couldn't find
her. I was screaming," he remembers.
After desperately scouring the beach in search of his
wife, Justin says he finally found 27-year-old April
floating face down in the surf. He rushed into the water
and tried to revive her.
"She wasn't responding to me," he remembers.
Justin says he pulled April to shore, and thatís when he
noticed sheíd been shot. He tried several times to lift
her into his arms, but he couldnít do it. "My body was
not responding the way that I think that it should
have," he remembers.
Panicking, he bent over Aprilís limp body and grabbed
the waistband of her pants, then dragged her several
"We got to the point at which the boardwalk meets the
sand. And then thereís a set of stairs that lead up to
the boardwalk," Justin tells Dow. "I couldnít very well
drag her up the stairs. I wanted to lean her over my
shoulder and try to carry her that way to the road."
But his last ditch effort to lift April also failed. "I
dropped her. And I think the sound of her hitting the
ground caused a reaction in me. I knew at that point
that what I was doing was just not working."
It was at that moment that Justin says he figured out
what was wrong. The reason he couldnít carry his petite
wife to safety was because Justin himself had been
shotóand not just onceóbut four times. And now Justin
says he was forced to do the unthinkable: leave his wife
on the beach, while he blazed a trail to find help,
Realizing he had left his cell phone at home, Justin
says he darted into the middle of the road to wave for
help but three cars whizzed past him.
"I ran to our vehicle," he recalls. "I remember getting
in the truck and driving back to town." Shaken and
injured, Justin sped off into the darkness.
"I was driving very, very fast with my four-way flashers
on. Driving erratically. I was looking for help. I was
looking for attention," he explains. "I remember seeing
a red light. And stopping there and cars were there. And
I started yelling for help."
At a major intersection, Justin says he finally found a
good Samaritan who called 911.
paramedics arrived. Justin told them what
happened to April and they rushed him to the
Meanwhile, Det. Howard Cole and the entire St.
Johnís Sheriffís Department immediately sprang
"We had a gentleman up there who had been shot
four times and initially we didnít know where.
We just knew that he had said that it was on the
beach," Cole remembers.
When police reached the beach they instantly made a
chilling discovery. "She was laying there, on her back,
at the foot of the boardwalk, completely wet," Cole
explains. "She was in fact deceased right there at the
Police now had a homicide investigation on their hands
and a killer on the loose. Cole rushed to the hospital
to find out from Justin everything he knew.
After learning his wife was dead, Justin managed to
compose himself, and tried to describe the gunman who
"He did not know what the guy looked like. He did not
see his face. It was too dark. His description of a
suspect at that time is that 'He was taller than me. He
was stronger than me. And he had on a baggy tee shirt
and a ball cap,'" Cole says.
Cole then photographed the wounds the gunman had
inflicted on Justin: he had been shot in his left hand,
his left shoulder, the base of his neck, and, most
alarmingly, his chest.
Justinís wounds turned out not to be life-threatening,
and doctors released him the next day. A short time
later, he flew back to Oklahoma to face the grim task of
burying his wife.
Aprilís best friend Amber says the funeral made it clear
just how many people loved April and felt close to her.
"We did everything we could to make it a tribute of how
wonderful she was," Amber remembers.
Justin, however, seemed distant, according to Amber.
"Justin was almost mute. He was looking at the floor. He
wouldnít make eye contact with anybody," she remembers.
Justinís brother Charlie wasnít surprised. He says
Justin was simply overcome with grief over losing April.
"He was emotionally devastated. Physically wounded and
emotionally devastated. I've never seen him like that.
Even when our dad died."
Charlie was so worried about Justin, he wouldnít leave
his side. So they flew back to Florida together. Once
there, Charlie says Justin was able to put his grief
aside for one reason only.
"He wanted to get back as soon as possible. So he could
help in any way he could with the investigation,"
He even returned to the place where April died, and
spent over 10 hours with police to help look for clues.
"Everything they asked for, I gave them. Every time they
wanted me to come back to St. John's County and talk to
them some more, I did. Whenever they wanted a statement,
I gave it them," he says.
But almost immediately, Justin felt police were
overlooking critical clues that pointed to Aprilís
possible killer. The biggest one: witnesses told police
they had seen a second car parked at the beach around
the time Justin and April were shot.
"We didnít have a tag number. We didnít have a reliable
make. I would have loved to have found it 'cause you
know what? That was a potential witness in my mind. The
simple fact is we could not," Det. Cole explains.
Justin was also mystified why police werenít thoroughly
investigating suspicious incidents that happened while
April was living on her own in Georgia.
Aprilís car was broken into, and just three weeks before
the murder, so was her house.
"We did speak to the investigators that actually worked
that burglary. There is no connection with that in this
case," Cole says.
Asked if he was aware of any people he considered a
threat to his wife, Justin says, "I think that we're
stretching a bit when we say that. I think that there
were some folks in April's life that should have been
investigated. There were certainly a few people there
that had a romantic interest in April. But did the
police follow up on those leads? No, I don't believe
But what he didnít know is police were pursuing leads of
their own and in fact, they thought they were already
zeroing in on Aprilís killer: Justin Barber himself.
"The situation as he presented it wasnít adding up,"
Even the basic premise of Justinís story didnít make
sense to Cole. The detective thinks the location itself
was an unusual place for a stick-up. "I donít see why
they would. It just doesnít make any sense. It never
happened before and it hasnít happened since," he says.
Coleís suspicions were first raised when he found out
nothing was taken during the alleged robbery, including
Justinís wallet and Aprilís diamond ring. And when Cole
took Justin to the beach after Aprilís funeral, he
became even more suspicious.
"He certainly appeared to be crying but thereís no tears
coming down his face. He was almost rubbing his eyes,
trying to force up some emotion," the detective
So Cole took a closer look at Justinís account of what
happened after he left April on the beach that night,
beginning with his attempt to flag down three passing
"If what heís saying is true, I would expect to get
numerous 911 calls, and we received none," he says.
Most troubling of all to Cole was that when Justin got
into his car to find help for his wife, he drove almost
ten miles before stopping.
"There's a McDonald's right here, that would have been
opened. There's a Walgreen's right here. That's
24-hours. Just north of here there's a 24-hour Shell
station. And they're very well-illuminated. I mean if
you truly were trying to get help, that certainly would
be a place that I would consider getting help," Cole
points out. "I don't think anybody would accept that
that man left his wife and drove ten miles away to get
help. That defies reason."
Meanwhile, Aprilís family, and friends like Amber
Mitchell, were comparing notes and growing suspicious of
The story they began to piece together was of a marriage
in trouble. And they realized that problems surfaced
right at the beginning, when Aprilís siblings, Julie and
Kendon, came to live with the newlyweds in Georgia.
"Whenever we first lived with them, it was good. Towards
the end of living with them, it got kind of tense. I was
very strong-willed and I didn't like it," Julie says.
So the family brought Julie back to Oklahoma, and Kendon
soon followed, against Justinís wishes.
"He was really angry. None of us understood why he cared
so much about it except for if he liked the appearance
of being such a noble guy to take in these children,"
She says she realized appearances were very important to
Justin. "He would put his high school jeans on once a
month to make sure they still fit. And if they didn't,
he would fast until they did. He gave April a hard time
about weight to the point where she was almost paranoid
about gaining weight. And she was tiny," Amber
Amber also knew that April suspected Justin was having
an affair in Jacksonville. When confronted by his wife,
Amber says Justin denied the affair.
Det. Cole discovered the "other" woman was Shannon
Kennedy, who worked at the agency where Justinís company
rented cars. Cole invited Shannon to the police station
the same afternoon he was interviewing Justin.
"Shannon Kennedy came in right away. And she was very
honest. She said it started out as kind of a social
relationship. They'd go out, have drinks and what not.
And eventually progressed into a sexual relationship,"
Justin, however, was less honest, at least at first. "He
adamantly denied having any affairs with anyone, Shannon
Kennedy specifically. I said, 'Well, I'm gonna bring her
in this room. We're gonna get to the bottom.' He said,
'No, no, no.' He said, 'I did sleep with her. I have
been having an affair with her.' Only confronted with
her and he being in the same room did he tell the truth.
To me, that's huge," Cole says.
When he searched Justin's apartment, Cole made another
discovery: two life insurance policies, one in Justinís
name, one in Aprilís, for $2 million each.
Aprilís aunt Patty says she had always been troubled by
that. "April thought it was a lotta money. Neither April
nor I could understand why he was insisting to have a $2
million life insurance policy on her life," she
Amber Mitchell thinks she knows why: "He was in debt up
to his eyeballs," she says.
Stock market losses and other expenses had left Justin
over $50,000 in debt. And by the summer of 2002, between
the affair and the money problems, April had had enough.
"She was leaving him. She told him, the last time she
saw him alive, that she was leaving him," Amber says.
As circumstantial evidence implicating Justin was
mounting, Cole began to examine the crime scene more
closely. And now, even the fact that Justin had been
shot four times began to seem suspicious.
"He had one wound to his left shoulder, which was out
and away. He had another one in his right shoulder. Same
thing. It was kind of out and away," Cole says.
None of the wounds were near his vital organs.
But Justin and his brother Charlie found Coleís
description of the wounds preposterous. "It hurt him. He
was in a lot of pain for a few weeks after. He had to
keep the one arm in a sling," Charlie says.
Then, just months after the murder, while police were
still trying to gather hard evidence against him, Justin
suddenly moved to Oregon, where he got a new job, a new
woman, and started a new life, far from Det. Coleís
scrutiny. But suspicions about Justin persisted.
Even though he had moved to Portland, Ore., far from the
scene of Aprilís murder, Justin says she was always on
He wore his wedding band around his neck, "because I
just wasn't ready to let it go. It was a reminder of
her. And it was a reminder of my failure during our
So Justin distracted himself with work, and with a new
Lisa, who asked 48 Hours not to use her last name, says
Justin often re-lived what happened to April that night
on the beach. "He felt like he just abandoned her. He
never forgave himself," she says.
Justin never forgave Aprilís family either. It was
because of them, he claims, that he remained the prime
Aprilís aunt Patty makes no apologies for putting the
spotlight on Justin. "He planned every moment of it,"
she says. "This was premeditated, cold, calculated."
Yet months, and then years went by, without an arrest.
So Patty, who is a judge in Oklahoma, stepped up the
pressure on Florida prosecutors to arrest Justin.
But State Attorney John Tanner worried his prosecutors
would get burned by the case. "We knew it was a case
that could be lost," he explains. "You just don't expect
a person to shoot themselves four times, or to seriously
attempt to injure themselves. But, as we began to search
for who did it, we determined that all the evidence led
back to the husband."
After years of pressure, and painstakingly weighing the
evidenceówhich was largely circumstantialóprosecutors
finally rolled the dice. In July 2004, Justin was
arrested for murder.
Speaking to Dow, Justin maintained he did not kill his
wife or shoot himself to cover up the murder.
In June, 2006, four years after Aprilís murder, with his
family behind him, Justin was finally put on trial in
St. Augustine, Fla.
The state attorneyís office was seeking the death
penalty, and two of its youngest prosecutorsóMatt Foxman
and Chris Franceówere trying this high-profile case.
"Justin Barber has insisted, and I believe, that heís an
innocent man. And the only thing weíre interested in is
an exoneration," says defense attorney Bob Willis, who
would try to convince jurors that a robber, and not
Justin Barber, killed April on the beach.
"You will find that within a very short period of time
after April Barberís death, it was found on the evening
of August 17, 2002 that the police focused exclusively
their attention on Justin Barber," Willis told jurors
during opening arguments.
But the prosecutionís star witness, Det. Cole,
Cole testified that he asked Justin why he drove more
than nine miles from the beach after the shooting. "He
said he didnít really remember much about that drive,"
"Did you ask him why he didnít stop at any houses?"
"Yes," Cole replied.
"And what did he tell you?" Foxman asked.
"He said he didnít want to get some old man out of bed,"
Cole also testified that even though Justin said he
dragged April by her waistband and had a bullet hole in
his hand, his blood wasnít visible on her pants.
But the defense struck, saying Justinís blood was found
"How about the blood that was here on her, right here,
inside, upper left arm? Did you know at that time that
that was Justin Barber's blood?" Willis asked Cole.
"No sir," Cole answered.
"You know it now though, don't you?" Willis asked.
"Yes," Cole acknowledged.
Prosecutors turned their attention to Justinís possible
motives, and called Shannon Kennedy to the stand. She
testified that she didn't originally know Justin was
married but that once she found out, he told her, "He
said that he loved her, he just couldnít live with her."
"If you want to look at just the fact that he was
cheating on his wife, and the fact that there was two
million dollars, and you want to stop right there, then
we canít do anything about that. If on the other hand,
youíre really seriously interested in who killed April
Barber, letís look at the evidence," defense attorney
"Thatís exactly what prosecutors did next, when they
dropped a bombshell. Six months before the murder, they
say, Justin went online to research how to shoot himself
without getting hurt. A computer expert recovered a
record of those Google searches.
Then, just hours before April was murdered, Justin went
online again. The expert testified Justin downloaded an
mp3 of the Guns N' Roses tune, "Used To Love Her," which
includes the lyrics, ďI used to love her but I had to
Asked how significant that song was in this case,
prosecutor Foxman tells Dow, "Well, it was significant
because of the timing. Downloaded just hours before the
murder. Then, when he set to turn his computer over to
law enforcement after the murder, that was the only song
Justin surfed the Internet so often, his lawyer says,
the evidence is meaningless.
"Out of potentially 2,200 queries, they wind up with two
that look bad in retrospect. I think I could probably do
that on anybody's computer," Willis says.
And Justin says heís not giving up. "I will fight until
I have no more options," he says.
As Justin's murder trial dragged into a second week, the
pressure was growing on two families who once were
"This is devastating for us. And itís devastating for
them," Amber says.
Itís particularly tough on Aprilís siblings, Julie and
Kendon, whom Justin once helped raise.
"It was heartbreaking, because somebody that we had
trusted and somebody that we had loved would be capable
of doing something like that to our sister. We both
looked up to him," Julie says.
The defense attacked one of the most critical points in
the case: whether Justinís wounds were superficial or
not. A defense expert testified that Justinís wounds
were serious and that one nearly struck an artery.
Then prosecutors presented two witnesses who say they
saw another car at the crime scene. The problem is, they
canít agree what color the car was.
The trial finally boiled down to a key point,
illustrated by a graphic, which represented a crime
scene photo of Aprilís face that the jury was shown.
To prosecutors, the blood flowing in a single direction
proved Justin was lying.
"The blood flow is everything. Justin Barber's story is
that she was shot down by the water and then carried 18
different positions with her head moving in all kinds of
directions. The blood flow would be everywhere. Instead,
it's in a unified direction. And, what the significance
of that is, his story just wasn't true.Ē
But the defenseís expert testifies the blood flow is
consistent with Justinís story.
"In my view, she was shot in that location near the
water, and other blood which had come out was probably
washed away by the waves. As I understand it, she was
face down in about a foot of water," the expert
Finally, the case drew to a close. If the jury found
Justin guilty, he could be sentenced to death.
Deliberations dragged into a second day, then a third.
"By the third day I was beginning to fear that the jury
was hung," Amber remembers.
But jurors were still trying to sort it all out and
finally rendered their verdict on the fourth day of
April's family and friends were overcome, but their
emotions were mixed.
"I was happy, but then again it breaks my heart," Julie
"Relieved for an instance and then heartbroken for
Justin's mother," was Aprilís auntís reaction to the
But Justinís family did not have mixed emotions: they
were simply furious.
His mother Linda told Dow she had lost faith in the
criminal justice system. "It didnít work at all this
time," she said. "I would love to know what those jurors
saw that made them think that he did this. Because he
didnít and they didnít prove that he did it. So I donít
know what they went by."
The jurors say they were swayed by many factors,
especially the blood evidence.
"If she had been shot out on the beach, there would have
been some smearing, some blood flow in another
direction," one female juror explained. "Also, there was
the computer that he had searched for gunshot wounds,"
"I really can't tell you on national TV what I think
about him. But it's not good. It's not good at all," a
male juror told Dow.
Pressed, the juror said, "I think he's a dirty son of a
But Justinówho might now be sentenced to deathóis
defiant. "If that jury thinks I killed April, then they
should execute me. I would never ask for mercy for the
person who killed her."
Asked why not, Justin says, "Because they don't deserve
it. And if that jury believes that I'm that person, then
they should send me to death row."
The jury recommended the death penalty for Justin
Barber. The judge, however, sentenced Justin to life in
prison, without parole.
Justinís family has hired a private investigator to
re-examine the murder of April Barber.