Police escort Justin Barkley into the courthouse for a hearing Thursday.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs / Sun Staff Writer

Police escort Justin Barkley into the courthouse for a hearing Thursday.

January 20, 2017

Mother of Accused Walmart Murderer Requests Guardianship, Power to Make Legal Decisions

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The mother of the Ithaca man accused of fatally shooting a UPS driver in the Ithaca Walmart parking lot requested on Friday the power to make legal decisions for her son and to become his legal guardian.

In a sworn petition filed in Tompkins County Supreme Court on Friday morning, Linda Edwards said she is the mother of Justin R. Barkley, 38, of Ithaca, and asked the court to let her make decisions in legal matters he is currently facing, handle his medical needs and manage his financial assets.

Police say Barkley fatally shot William Schumacher, 52, of Candor, in the chest with a rifle on Dec. 8 before driving over the victim in a truck and fleeing to his residence on Dryden Road, beginning an eight-hour standoff with authorities until he ultimately surrendered.

Prosecutors charged Barkley with murder in the second degree — a class A-1 felony — and menacing a police officer or peace officer — a class D felony — and he is currently being held in Tompkins County Jail without the option for bail.

Barkley “is unable to take care of his needs both health, mental, legal and financial affairs,” Edwards wrote, because two psychiatric examiners determined that he was unable to understand the court proceedings against him and assist in his own defense.

“In discussions with [Barkley], he is unable to understand the nature of the situation or the actual facts/matters that had taken place,” Edwards wrote. “He is also totally unable to speak realistically, accurately or coherently about the situation which he faces.”

Edwards requested guardianship of Barkley for an indefinite period of time, no less than a year. Parental guardianship of a child ends on the child’s 18th birthday in New York.

Reached by phone Friday evening, Edwards said she had no comment on her request for guardianship. Attorney James Baker, who is representing Barkley in his criminal case, also declined to comment.

District Attorney Matthew Van Houten told The Sun that he still expects Barkley to be deemed competent when he is evaluated more thoroughly by different psychiatric examiners.

Van Houten also said Edwards’ petition will not affect the criminal case in any way and that she should not be able to make legal decisions for Barkley, regardless of whether he is competent or not.

“If [Edwards] is looking to have an influence on the criminal case — in other words, put herself in Mr. Barkley’s shoes — that’s not how it works,” he said. “If [Barkley] is not competent to make a decision or to participate in his own defense, there’s a process for that. It’s not letting someone else make decisions for him or to step into his shoes.

Van Houten said Barkley “is able to understand what’s happening and make decisions, he just doesn’t want to,” and added that he expects Barkley to oppose his mother’s petition, the outcome of which will be determined by a Tompkins County Supreme Court judge.

Edwards, in her petition, said she is suitable to act as Barkley’s guardian because she “has been his mother and intimately involved in his life. Of all of the available and willing people to carry out this function, she is the most familiar with his needs and assets.”

Barkley’s truck is impounded and he may owe money on a motorcycle, Edwards wrote. She is requesting the authority to manage his financial assets, and said that he has more than $2,500 in his bank account, although she does not know the exact figure.

Syracuse attorney Michael Harris, who is representing Edwards in her petition, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday evening.