ITHACA, N.Y. — Justin Barkley, who pleaded guilty last week to killing a man in an Ithaca Walmart parking lot, says he was being drugged with liquid LSD and experiencing psychosis at the time of the homicide.
Barkley was originally charged with second-degree murder for the shooting death of Candor man William Schumacher on Dec. 8, 2016. He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and menacing a police/peace officer on Thursday, receiving a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and five years of post-release supervision for manslaughter charge.
Related —Man accused of Ithaca homicide: ‘I shot and killed Donald Trump purposely, intentionally and very proudly’
The crime made national news after Barkley claimed that he’d actually shot Donald Trump, who was president-elect at the time.
Barkley said in court during his arraignment, “I shot and killed Donald Trump purposely, intentionally and very proudly.” But his attorney Peter Dumas later said those statements were made under “mental disease and defect.”
After final selections for a jury were made Thursday, opening statements in the case were delayed due to “evidentiary issues”, Judge John Rowley said.
Hours later, attorney were called back to court where Barkley took his plea.
According to a transcript of the court appearance, Barkley told the court that he’d been drugged over a period of several weeks by a group of people he knew.
“I started to experience a psychosis I believe from liquid LSD being put in my home, not by me but by people that had resentments and grievances toward me. Four people specifically,” Barkley said.
In the months leading up to the shooting, Barkley was charged with misdemeanors after getting into a fight with a man and falsely reporting a rape. He was also committed to a psychiatric ward at Cayuga Medical Center shortly after being arrested from the incident.
Barkley said the incident was “very out of my behavior” and said he regressed and became ill due to being drugged.
He said that the morning he shot Schumacher, he went to the Ithaca Walmart to get food.
“I was experiencing extreme psychosis and paranoia,” Barkley said. “…I was afraid that the government was out to get me or my ex-girlfriend’s friends were out to get me or hurt me.”
Barkley said that when he noticed Schumacher, who he did not know, walking in the direction of his vehicle in the parking lot, he panicked.
“I thought this person was coming to attack me in my vehicle because of my state of mind. And I remember panicking and having the thought that I needed to defend myself, because I thought that this person was walking toward my vehicle to try to hurt or kill me,” he said.
He said that while he doesn’t explicitly remember shooting Schumacher, he does recall thinking that he should use his .30-06 caliber rifle to protect himself. Barkley had left the gun in his vehicle after going hunting with his father the previous weekend.
After firing the shot Barkley said he remembered running over Schumacher as he drove out of the parking in fear that other people were out to hurt him.
When he arrived home at 1279 Dryden Road, Barkley was being pursued by police offers. He said he fired a shot in the vicinity of the officers but did not intend to shoot them. Following a nearly eight-hour standoff, Barkley was taken into custody.
About his Donald Trump statements, Barkley said the following:
When I think back on it now with a rational mind, I can understand. Like I said, I believed that this person was from the government and was trying to hurt me. And my state of thinking was so dysfunctional at the time, the only thing I could associate with a person from the government was that it was Donald Trump. He had just been elected recently at the time. He had just won the election, and that’s the only person I could think of associated with the government. So I immediately attached that to the thought, that it was Donald Trump who was trying to hurt and attack me in the parking lot. And that’s why I said those things. And I know it’s difficult to understand with a rational mind, but that’ something I try and deal with and accept every day, how sick I was at that time.
According to court documents, Barkley chose not to raise the insanity defense, something he has been consistent about since he was arrested.
His plea finds him guilty of first-degree manslaughter under extreme emotional disturbance, Judge John Rowley said.
District Attorney Matt Van Houten said in a news release, ” “I strongly believe that this plea is a measure of justice in what is a profoundly tragic case. The most important thing is that Justin Barkley will be sentenced to 25 years in state prison. We have to recognize that the defendant’s mental health played a major role in what took place. The acknowledgement by the defendant that he acted intentionally, together with the extensive investigation we conducted, including a full psychiatric evaluation by our own expert, support the conclusion that the defendant was suffering from what New York State law recognizes as an extreme emotional disturbance. We would not have permitted the defendant to plead guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree without a guarantee that he would receive the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.”
Barkley is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 13.