Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs / Sun Staff Writer

Barkley, 38, is opposing his mother’s request for custody and is also facing previously unreported charges stemming from an August incident in Lansing.

February 16, 2017

Accused Walmart Killer Faces Prior Charges, Opposes Mother’s Custody Request

Print More

The Ithaca man accused of fatally shooting and driving over a UPS driver in the Ithaca Walmart parking lot is also facing misdemeanor charges in Lansing Town Court for allegedly punching and choking a store clerk months before the Walmart incident, court documents show.

Justin Barkley, 38, arrived in Tompkins County Supreme Court on Wednesday morning to argue against his mother’s request for guardianship. Linda Edwards, Barkley’s mother, filed a petition with the court in January requesting custody of her son and the ability to make legal decisions for him, The Sun previously reported.

Barkley is “totally unable to speak realistically, accurately or coherently about the situation which he faces,” his mother said in the petition, noting that he had been ruled incompetent to stand the murder trial by two psychiatrists. In addition to requesting the ability to make legal decisions for her son, Edwards also asked for the power to make medical decisions for Barkley and manage his financial assets.

Barkley is facing two felonies — murder in the second degree and menacing a police officer or peace officer — for allegedly shooting William Schumacher, 52, of Candor, in the chest with a rifle outside of Walmart on Dec. 8 and firing a shot at police officers during the ensuing standoff. He is being held at Tompkins County Jail without the option for bail.

In a handwritten letter sent by Barkley to the court, he requested a jury trial in the custody case and asked that the judge appoint an attorney to defend him.

“I do not want the counsel to have permission to inspect my medical, psychological or psychiatric records,” Barkley wrote in the letter.

Judge David Guy sealed court proceedings and case files related to the custody case after Barkley’s attorney — appointed by Mental Hygiene Legal Services — filed a motion to exclude the public and prosecutors from the proceedings, District Attorney Matthew Van Houten told The Sun.

Judge Guy denied Van Houten’s request to observe the guardianship proceedings, saying the district attorney’s presence might have a “chilling effect” on Barkley’s ability to freely testify in opposition to his mother’s guardianship request, Van Houten said, adding that he disagreed with but respected the judge’s decision.

Justin Barkley, 38, is facing two misdemeanor charges from August in addition to a murder charge from December

Ithaca Police Department

Justin Barkley, 38, is facing two misdemeanor charges from August in addition to a murder charge from December

Documents from Lansing Town Court raise new questions about the mental health status of Barkley, who in December claimed he had killed President Donald Trump outside of Walmart and who has been ruled incompetent to stand trial by two psychiatrists.

Barkley is facing two misdemeanor charges — menacing and falsely reporting a crime — for allegedly punching and choking a store clerk at the Triphammer Marketplace on Aug. 26, according to court documents that have not been previously reported.

The alleged assault occurred a little more than three months before Schumacher was killed at Walmart. Less than an hour after the murder, Barkley drove away from police and holed up in his house with a rifle, commencing an hours-long standoff with police before he ultimately surrendered.

A manager at Planted Earth said a man entered the hydroponics and garden supply shop at Triphammer Marketplace on Aug. 26 claiming he had lost his wallet, but then began punching the manager and accusing him of raping his girlfriend, according to a statement given to State Police under penalty of perjury.

“I came out from behind the counter to help the man find his wallet when he started yelling at me telling me not to touch his girlfriend again,” the manager said in the deposition. “The man punched me, he grabbed me, we struggled back and forth falling to the ground where he got me in a choke hold with his arm around my neck.”

After trying to choke the manager, the man called 911 and spoke with an operator before leaving the store and riding away on a white Harley Davidson motorcycle, the manager said in the deposition.

“While we were struggling the man said something about me tieing up his girlfriend and raping her in the store,” the manager said. “I don’t know who this man is or why he thinks I touched his girlfriend.”

A State Police officer said in a complaint that Barkley called 911 claiming his girlfriend was being raped and assaulted by the store clerk before screaming “send help” and hanging up. The officer says Barkley’s claims were entirely false.

Attorney Michael Perehinec, who is representing Barkley in Lansing Town Court, said the case has not been dismissed but was put on hold after Barkley was charged with the Walmart murder.

Asked about the misdemeanor charges and the incident at Planted Earth, District Attorney Van Houten said the Lansing case is “on hold” as Barkley deals with the murder charge, but that prosecutors are aware of the case and have spoken with people involved.

“Those people that interacted with him are people that we have on record and we will continue to communicate with them as it becomes necessary,” Van Houten told The Sun. “Everything that [Barkley] has done that we can document is relevant to evaluating his mental health.”

Judge John Rowley, who is presiding over the murder case, said in January that prosecutors are doing “a disservice to the public” by maintaining that Barkley is competent despite the two psychiatrists’ evaluations otherwise.

“Your evaluation is that he’s competent based on nothing,” Rowley said to a prosecutor in January.

Van Houten said in January that Barkley would be undergoing a more thorough psychiatric evaluation at a secure mental health facility. The district attorney also said he was confident Barkley would be found competent to stand trial and said he was comfortable prosecuting the case even if Barkley still believed he had killed Donald Trump.

Attorney James Baker, who is defending Barkley in the Walmart murder case, did not respond to a request for comment late on Wednesday.