ITHACA, N.Y. — Family members of a man who was killed in an Ithaca Walmart parking lot more than a year ago read moving statements offering forgiveness to Justin Barkley, who shot and killed William Schumacher during a drug and alcohol-fueled psychotic break.
Barkley was sentenced to 25 years in prison Tuesday afternoon for first-degree manslaughter and menacing a police/peace officer. The sentencing was part of a plea deal where he confessed to shooting Schumacher, a man he did not know, on Dec. 8, 2016. He then fled the scene, shot at police officers and barricaded himself in him home for nearly eight hours.
According to Barkley, he was unwillingly drugged and on LSD as the time of the shooting, causing him to think that Schumacher was part of a conspiracy to “get” him.
“I was experiencing extreme psychosis and paranoia,” Barkley previously 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.”
Schumacher’s son, Blake, however said the family believes that from the very beginning, Barkley has seemed to know exactly what he was doing and saying.
“You sit so calm, so composed, so prepared,” Blake said.
He said that Barkley seems like he always knows what’s about to happen. But he did not know William Schumacher.
“Perhaps then, you would have chosen a different path,” Blake said.
He described his father as the kind of man who would have sat across from him, drank a cup of coffee, smoked a cigarette and talked about farm life. He would have listened to somebody’s problems and joked about ex-wives.
But most importantly, Blake said, “He wold have told you about Jesus.”
He said there are no words to describe the despair or anger that his family has felt toward Barkley since the killing of William Schumacher. But in spite of that, they want to offer a lesson in Christ.
“I do not wish death or hell on you Mr. Barkley. I pray these words of forgiveness do not fall on deaf ears,” Blake said. “Take this opportunity. Mr. Barkley. Seek Christ in this. Allow Jesus to make something of this mess you have made.”
William Schumacher’s sister, Robin Morse, also offered words of forgiveness toward Barkley.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that my brother Bill isn’t missed… he loved with all his heart and that kind of love is unforgettable,” she said.
But her brother wouldn’t want anybody to hate Barkley.
She said, “I forgive you for taking my brother’s life and, if you ask him, Jesus will forgive you also.”
The death of Schumacher gained national attention 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.”
He explained in court last month, though, that he did not think he actually shot Trump.
“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,” Barkley said when he took the plea.
Related —Transcript: Justin Barkley blames liquid LSD, psychosis for deadly shooting at Ithaca Walmart
In court Tuesday, Barkley only expressed remorse for what he’d done.
“I would like to express my sympathy to the family and just let them know that they have definitely been in my thoughts…,” Barkley said.
He said he wished he’d done many things differently — that he’d called police when he thought he was being drugged, that he’d reached out for professional help when he started to experience mental health issues, as he had in the past.
“I think about that every day and it will be in my thought for a very long time,” he said. “That’s something that I really take to heart and wish that I could change and address.”
He said he takes the family’s words to heart and appreciates them for speaking to him.
“I want to wish you all the best as you do move forward from this tragedy,” he said.
Barkley was represented by attorney Peter Dumas. District Attorney Matt Van Houten and Assistant District Attorney Eliza Filipowski prosecuted the case.
Van Houten said after the sentencing that the family was part of the decision making process to accept the plea, and that the 25-year sentence was very similar to the one Barkley likely would have gotten if he’d been found guilty during a trial.
It’s unclear where Barkley will serve his sentence, but his attorney Dumas asked as a formality for protective custody for his client.
Ultimately, the Department of Corrections will determine whether Barkley serves his time in a prison or another facility where his mental needs can be met.
Featured photo by Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice