Friday, September 17, 2004

Ex-cop faces trial in wife's '95 death

By Janice Morse
Enquirer staff writer

LEBANON - A Warren County judge on Thursday refused to dismiss charges against an ex-Springboro police officer accused of involvement in his wife's 1995 shooting death.

Defense lawyers had argued that the case against Thomas James Barton should be dismissed because authorities waited too long to prosecute him in the death of his first wife, Vickie, 40. But Common Pleas Judge James L. Flannery disagreed in a decision Thursday.

Barton had been considered cleared of suspicion, Flannery noted, until last year, after the county's "cold case" squad re-opened the investigation. Investigators unearthed evidence that led to Barton's indictment five months ago on charges that he was involved with his wife's gunshot slaying but was not the trigger man.

"The reason for the delay (in prosecution) is one that was not deliberate in order to obtain an unfair advantage," Flannery wrote in a decision that clears the way for a trial to begin Oct. 21.

Free on bond, Barton, now 49, retired from the Springboro Police Department in February.

He is accused of two counts of complicity to involuntary manslaughter, two counts of complicity to aggravated burglary and a count of complicity to burglary.

No one else has been charged in the case, although authorities have said other people remained under investigation.

The judge also ruled on more than a dozen other issues Thursday, including:

• Refusing to move the trial to another site because of extensive publicity.

• Refusing to force prosecutors to disclose funding for the "cold case squad" investigation of the case.

• Allowing jurors to view the Franklin Township farmhouse where Mrs. Barton was found slain.

• Refusing to exclude a tape-recording of Barton's call to a 911 dispatcher from the trial.

• Refusing defense lawyers' request to suppress all evidence authorities seized from Barton's home.

• Allowing an outside laboratory to review "any scientific evidence in the possession of the prosecution."

Parties in the case cannot comment because of a gag order that will remain in effect until the case is over.


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