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Murder defendant says he doesn't remember killing

April 20, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Chambersburg man on trial for criminal homicide said Tuesday he remembered snorting lines of cocaine off a photograph of his former girlfriend but did not recall killing her a short time later.

Kevin J. Barrett, 35, said he was in his truck on Sept. 7, 1997, when he spread out about a gram of cocaine on Wendy Wise Schuchman's picture. He then returned to Siggy's Food & Spirits, 454 Norland Ave., where he killed the 32-year-old Chambersburg woman with two blasts from a 12-gauge shotgun.

"That was more (cocaine) than I'd done at any one time," Barrett, of 627 Siloam Road, said. "At that time I decided to kill myself and would do it in front of Wendy."

"I honestly do not remember firing the shots into Wendy," Barrett said under cross examination by Assistant District Attorney T.R. Williams.

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Barrett said he remembered being at the bar earlier and then leaving to get the shotgun from his home, but said he could not remember loading the weapon, or forming any plan to kill her.

Barrett shot himself after killing Schuchman but said he was unaware of what happened until he was being arraigned for criminal homicide in a hospital room.

The defense concedes Barrett killed Schuchman. The question for the jury of seven men and five women is whether he should be convicted of first-degree murder, third-degree murder or manslaughter. Second-degree murder applies only when a person is killed during the commission of a felony.

A first-degree murder conviction would mean life in prison.

Defense attorneys Stephen D. Kulla and Eric J. Weisbrod are presenting a diminished capacity defense, arguing that mental infirmity and drug intoxication made Barrett incapable of forming a specific intent to kill.

Under questioning by Kulla, Barrett admitted he and Schuchman had a stormy relationship.

"Several times I remember striking her," her said. He also testified she hit him during altercations.

Barrett said he held a gun to Schuchman's head during an argument on Aug. 13, 1997. Later that month Barrett checked himself into the mental health unit at Carlisle Hospital for five days because of drug and alcohol problems.

Barrett denied he was obsessed with Schuchman or overly jealous. "I would never become violent unless something happened to provoke me," he said during cross examination.

"I've always been a very loving person," Barrett said.

The defense called a number of witnesses to testify about Barrett's mood and drug use before the killing.

Derek Schooley of Chambersburg said he and Barrett used cocaine on the afternoon of Sept. 6. Kulla asked him if he'd ever seen Barrett consume a gram of the drug in a short period of time.

"I've seen him attempt it," Schooley said.

Charles L. Gilbert of Fayetteville, Pa., testified Barrett was a supportive friend when he went through a divorce and later visited him in jail.

Williams asked Gilbert if he sold Barrett a large amount of marijuana police said they found in his truck after the shooting.

"Sir, I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me," Gilbert said to Judge Richard J. Walsh.

Defense and prosecution witnesses on intoxication are expected to testify today. The case could go to the jury today.

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