Barber photos -left, at time of arrest and right, at trial.
2009 - Justin Barber - current prison photo
Justin Mertis Barber is currently incarcerated at Century C.I Facility
in St. John's County, State of Florida for the August 17, 2002 pre-
meditated, 1st Degree murder of April Barber. He is serving a sentence
of Life in prison.
Why would a mugger on a beach murder and wound and then take nothing?
The scenario that Justin Mertis Barber put forth was just that:
A man wielding a gun approached Justin and his wife April Barber on a
deserted, dark beach, demanded money and then first killed April, a tiny,
slight woman,who was clearly of no threat to him. The man wounds Justin
Barber,a fit person,capable of fighting back.
(The details of the encounter change in the telling, going from a vague
description to Law Enforcement, to telling a journalist with 48 Hours
CBS) that he could recognize him if he saw him again.)
Then the mugger absconds without taking Barber's wallet or any of April's
Barber claimed that badly injured, he tried to carry April up to the road to
their car but couldn't. He left her lying on the beach, alone, to drive to get
help, driving almost 10 miles before flagging someone down; driving past an
open McDonalds; a 24 hour gas station; a 24 hour Walgreens before finally
eliciting help from a passing car farther down the road.
All the while, April's cell phone is in the vehicle.
"Did you ask him why he didn't stop at any houses?" "Yes." "And
what did he tell you?" "He said he didn't want to get some old
man out of bed."
Justin Barber was a serial philanderer who had (unbeknownst to his wife April)
been incurring an increasing debt load. He was also a man deeply concerned
about appearances. He is described by April's friends and family as
"intense and competitive."
Amber Mitchell (Friend of April who introduced them to each other)"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
Patricia Parrish (April's aunt) "He made fun of his overweight mother behind
her back, and publicly criticized April's singing voice, her taste in clothing
and her weight. He warned her not to embarrass him at his company Christmas
party and discouraged her from calling or e-mailing him at work. When his barbs
made her cry, he mimicked her sobs."
Justin Barber had been married once before his marriage to April Lott,
and that marriage had ended in divorce. Two failed marriages would make
him look less than marriageable material to any future prospec tive brides.
It would also be a slight against his own ego. He enjoyed the appearance
of being the good husband and surrogate father; the smart, intelligent
businessman and day trader.
He later chose another role, murderer.
"He wanted the $2 Million; He wanted sympathy for being shot;
and he wanted to look like a hero who tried to save his wife.
He wanted it all."
In the death of April Barber, just as he did at other times about his
problems, finances or mistakes, Justin blamed someone else for his deeds.
A TIMELINE TO MURDER:
1997 - July - Oklahoma - Justin Barber reports a burglary at his home.
Insurance claim - $15,000.
Barber marries his first wife while in college.
1998 - Prior to meeting Barber April dates men who's strong suit
October - April Lott is introduced to newly divorced Justin Barber. He moves to
Dallas, Tx and the two carry on a long distance romance.
Two weeks before they marry, April voices misgivings, her instincts tell her to call
off the wedding. She ignores those instincts.
Amber Mitchell "I was worried that it was really quick and maybe they didn't 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."
1999 - August 4 - April Lott and Justin Barber marry in the Bahamas. (10 months
after meeting.) They relocate and reside in Douglas, Georgia where Justin is transferred
and April finds employment at a cancer center.
From the start, both keep their finances separate.
September - April's siblings Julie and Kendon move in with them. (April had been
helping to care for them since their mother died of cancer.) Julie is 15 and rebellious.
Justin was infuriated at Julie, and at April's handling of her, sparking fights between
According to several of April's confidants, "Justin threatened "to never let April bear
2000 - April's sister, Julie moves back to Oklahoma. "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." "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." "Whenever we first lived
with them, it was good."
Their brother Kendon follows Julie back to Oklahoma shortly afterwards - against
Amber Mitchell "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."
While in Georgia with his wife April, Justin Barber engages in a sexual affair with
Justin Barber "I don't know, I have no excuse for it and I would never dream of
trying to excuse that behavior." "I don't know what really started that other than
I guess I got just a little bit too full of myself."
2001 - Justin Barber was transferred to Jacksonville, Florida. April decided to stay in
Georgia at her job. Justin purchases a condon in an upscale neighborhood. It is usually
April who makes the three hour trek to visit him in Florida.
Amber Mitchell "She told me that if they lived together every day, they'd kill each
"She just wasn't ready to give up on Justin. He could be charming, and his
criticisms dovetailed with some of her deep insecurities. She was harder on
herself than anyone else. She put up with a lot from her men."
Justin Barber "Living apart was stressful. We didn't see each other as much as we
A $2 Million life insurance policy is issued on April Barber, and the same amount
in a policy on Justin Barber. (8 months after Justin moves to Jacksonville,Florida)
The payment on the two life term insurance polices was $1,030 in in annual premiums.
Barber states he bought them as an investment.
Patricia Parrish "April had told me Justin wanted them to take out $2 million
insurance policies on each other's lives. "She asked if I didn't think it weird that
he was pushing for such a large amount."
"I told her yeah but said I didn't think they would qualify. She called back the next day
and said, "You can't say anything to Justin. He'll be furious if he finds out I told you."
Justin finds a company that covers them for that amount.
2002 - February 14, Valentine's Day - Justin Barber Google's "trauma cases;
gunshot right chest" on the Internet.
One week later: "Medical trauma gunshot chest."
July 19 - Florida Divorce.
Other searches Barber was found to have conducted: "Immigrating to Brazil;
acute blood loss." Barber was also looking up famous murder cases.
2002 - June - Justin Barber reports the theft of his Audi vehicle, and a Ruger 9
mm pistol inside the vehicle. Insurance claim - $39,000.
2002 - July - August- Justin Barber engages in an affair with Shannon Kennedy,
manager of a car rental office (that his firm does business with) who later testified
that at first she didn't know he was married. Once she knew, Barber told her
"He said he loved her; he just couldn't live with her."
"Either his family or her family was coming to town, and he needed the pictures
(of Justin and April) to go up" (around the condo) "just to make it look like they
"Justin had invited me to go on a trip to Georgia." "He'd also stated he might be
moving to California and invited me to move to California with him." Kennedy
refused both offers.
Kennedy later stated in court that she had considered the relationship with Barber
as "casual and without a future."
Barber admits that April had confronted him about Shannon Kennedy and other
women, but claims that "April never gave me any ultimatums or talked of divorce."
April figures out he's having an affair and defies Justin's edict not to email him at
work and asks him to "tell her when he was socializing with other women."
Justin responds sarcastically listing every female he'd glimpsed that day."
Debt - Justin Barber had made a series of cash advances $36,000, in bad e-trades
on the stock market. He was using credit cards to pay off the trades. He owed
$56,000 in credit card bills.
Three weeks before the murder, April was living and working in Georgia
and Justin was in Jacksonville. April's vehicle and home were broken into.
2002 - August - April Barber confides in her friend Amber Mitchell that "Justin
has been cheating on her and had denied it when confronted."
Authorities later determined that Justin had at least 5 affairs he'd engaged in
(and admitted to in court) during the three years of their marriage. One was with
a woman in New Zealand; another, Justin claims he couldn't remember her name.
April told her boss, Ramesh Nair, that "she was going to confront Justin on their
anniversary - August 4th."
2002 - August 4 - Third Wedding Anniversary - April told Justin she was
"leaving and divorcing him." April also told friends and family members of her
"plans to divorce."
Randas Honeman April's cousin "She told me she was leaving her husband and
moving to Oklahoma." April Barber had inquired into real estate and a job in her
home state of Oklahoma.
April returns to Georgia upset and tells her boss Ramesh Nair that "she'd
threatened to end the marriage, but Justin had denied everything."
Justin Barber "I can tell you without a doubt that April never told me that she
was divorcing me." "To say that April had confronted me with leaving and
divorcing, not true at all." "She was one of a kind and I didn't deserve to have her."
2002 - August 16 - Friday. April Barber drives to Jacksonville to see Justin for
2002 - August 17 - Saturday - Hours before the murder, Justin Barber downloads
16 songs from the Internet including Guns 'N Roses song "I Used to Love Her but
I Had to Kill Her." It was the ONLY song DELETED before Justin turned his home
and work computers over to investigators.
Lyrics: "I used to love her, but I had to kill her - I had to put her - Six feet under -
And I can still hear her complain." "I'd miss her - So I had to keep her -She's
buried right in my backyard."
Mere hours before April's death, she and her sister Julie shared a phone
conversation. "April told me she loved me. She told me she was going to
call me later on that evening, and that she loved me. That was the last thing."
Saturday evening: April Barber is murdered.
Justin Barber attempts to drown April, then, believing she is dead (she was unconscious)
he drags her to the boardwalk and shoots her through the cheek, with the bullet trajectory snapping the base of her skull, killing her.
Justin shoots himself in his left hand, his left shoulder, the base of his neck and his chest,
then leaves April's body on the beach while he drives for "help."
Neither Justin's wallet or April's diamond ring were taken in the "alleged robbery."
Amber Mitchell "She was leaving him. She told him, the last time she saw him alive,
that she was leaving him."
August 18 - Sunday - Justin Barber's wounds were not life threatening. He was
given antibacterial cream and bandages, and released from hospital the next day.
After April Barber's death:
Two days after April's death, Justin Barber stopped by Shannon Kennedy's office
and demanded to see her. He pursues her for several more weeks.
After an interview with police in which he denied vehemently that he did not have
an affair with Shannon Kennedy, he was confronted by Investigators with bringing
her into the room. Barber backs down and admits that he was involved in an affair
with her. Afterwards, he asks the officers if they will see if Kennedy will give him
a ride home. Kennedy declines.
When Ramesh Nair is informed of April's death he remembers something
April had told him a few months earlier: "One day, out of the blue, April said,
"If anything happens to me, suspect foul play." I answered with a joke, and she
looked hurt, like, You're not taking me seriously. Don't forget."
Amber Mitchell "Justin seemed distant. He was almost mute. He was looking at
the floor, he wouldn't make eye contact with anybody."
Patricia Parrish "Justin asked me to pay for the funeral since he was broke."
Justin had shrugged when asked to make decisions about April's funeral.
When Justin asked Patricia if she would pay for burial expenses, Patricia asked
"What about the $2 million?" Justin was startled. "Did April tell you?" Justin
told Patricia he thought the policy had lapsed. Patricia Parrish checked into it
and learned that the policy was still in effect.
Justin Barber had four wounds. Detective Cole: "One on his left shoulder that
appeared to kind of be going out and away. He had another one on his right
shoulder kind of like on a muscle that you shrug your shoulders. That kind
of was on an angle kind of out and away. He had another wound right on
the right chest that almost appeared like a grazing wound. And then he
had another wound in the center of his left hand which exited out the back
of the hand." "His vital signs were normal and his arms were functioning fine
when he was released from the hospital."
Justin Barber was shot exactly in the locations he had been researching on the
"Justin's account of the attack was oddly businesslike. His body language and
demeanor didn't seem appropriate. His description and story was vague and
the details kept changing."
Justin claimed that April had been drinking, but her blood-alcohol level
Justin seems to have thought the local police were rubes. He was taken
aback by the size of the police department. He queried the officers as to
their success rate.
Crime scene photos
48 Hrs -Video - A look at the evidence - Crime scene -Transparency photo
evidence of April Barber.
During the investigation of April Barber's death, Justin Barber had filed for
the insurance proceeds of two policies held on his wife, April Barber's life.
The insurance companies placed the monies into accounts pending the court's
determination of whether he was responsible for the murder of April Barber.
During a deposition Barber is asked to recall the high points of his marriage.
"Justin said tersely, "We were in love." When pressed for details Justin stated
"I don't recall specifically."
Justin Barber "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
2006 - Justin Barber was convicted of the murder of April Barber.
The jury did hand down a sentence sending him to death row. However,
upon review, the Judge determined that the case did not meet the
determination for heinous and commuted the sentence to life in prison.
Juror "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."
Julie Lott "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. I was happy, but then
again it breaks my heart."
Patricia Parrish "Relieved for an instance and then heartbroken for
The insurance monies were paid out to April Barber's family and they filed
a wrongful death lawsuit against Barber.
In the Civil Suit - Barber claims that he thought that the policy on April
had lapsed because he had stopped paying the premiums and that he was
surprised the policy was still in effect. He also claimed that he and April
had decided to let the policies lapse.
(From the start of the policy the bills were issued directly to Justin
Barber in Fla. Yet somehow, the last bill before her death was
addressed to April and sent to her in Georgia. April paid the bill.)
2007 - Justin Barber filed suit against April Barber's Estate, specificially
against her Aunt Patricia Parrish, and April's two siblings over two
insurance policies. Barber claimed that he being the spouse and
beneficiary, he should have received proceeds from both policies.
Barber stated that the insurance payouts should have been claiming that
the trial court erred in granting summary judgement because his conviction
could not be considered final before he had exhausted all of his appellate
He lost. Florida's Slayer Statute refers to a final conviction, not when all
appeals are exhausted.
2008 - Justin Barber's files appeal to vacate his conviction and sentence,
to remand his case to the Circuit Court with instructions that any
retrial be barred under Double Jeopardy principles.
Justin Barber "I will fight until I have no more options."