By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
KEENE — Lawyers for accused murderer Armando Barron, who allegedly tortured and shot a Keene man before he forced his wife to decapitate the corpse, want to block evidence of a prior domestic assault.
Meredith Lugo, Armando Barron’s attorney, argued Tuesday during a hearing in Cheshire Superior Court in Keene, that the state does not need to introduce the evidence that her client assaulted his wife, Britany Barron, the week before the murder.
“They don’t need the evidence of prior alleged assault to show motive or state of mind,” Lugo said.
While Lugo argued that the evidence of the one prior assault could prejudice the jury, Senior Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati said the domestic violence speaks to Armando Barron’s intent and plan for the September 2020 murder of Jonathan Amerault in Rindge.
“These were not actions that were taken in a vacuum,” Agati said.
The is the first time that the prior assault by Armando Barron on Britany Barron the week before the murder has been made public. Agati said the state has evidence of multiple prior assaults that could be brought into trial if the defense tried to question Britany Barron’s credibility.
Britany Barron pleaded guilty last year to charges of destroying evidence for her role in the murder.
“There are possible roads that we could go down,” Agati said.
Armando Barron has been held at the Cheshire County House of Corrections since his arrest, and he is set to go on trial later this year. Tuesday’s hearing was to resolve several motions, including some that have been filed under seal.
One other area of major concern are the 3,000 to 4,000 calls Armando Barron made while in jail. The defense wants to keep these calls between Armando Barron and his family out of the trial, but it is unknown what is in the calls. Assistant Attorney General Scott Chase said the state doesn’t have staff to translate the calls from Spanish and is currently seeking help from federal law enforcement. There is no timeline for the calls to be translated, and it is not known yet if the state will seek to introduce any of the calls as evidence.
“We’re doing our best,” Chase said.
Lugo said the state needs to notify the defense as soon as possible. She wants the court to set hard timelines to make sure that the calls are not being introduced as evidence during the trial.
“Our system isn’t one of trial by surprise,” she said.
The state is currently transcribing the calls made in English, Chase said, and has so far uncovered Armando Barron instructing family members to speak in a Bible-based code.
Amerault was 25 when Armando Barron beat, tortured, and then shot him to death at Annett Wayside Park in Rindge. Armando Barron discovered that his wife, Britany Barron, had started pursuing Amerault, according to court records.
Amerault was an engineer at Teleflex in Jaffrey, a biomedical company, where he worked with Britany Barron. As Britany Barron was seeking to get out of her marriage to the controlling Armando Barron, she started a texting relationship with Amerault, according to court records.
According to Aagti on Tuesday, Britany Barron tried to end the marriage a week before the murder, and Armando Barron beat her as a result.
A week later Armando Barron found the texts and he savagely beat his wife, even put a loaded gun in her mouth during the ordeal, according to court records.
After he beat his wife, Armando Barron used her phone to lure Jonathan Amerault to Rindge, according to court records. There, at Annett Wayside Park, Armando Barron beat and tortured Amerault, at times trying to force his wife to hurt of kill Amerault, which she refused, according to court records.
After the murder, Armando Barron put Amerault into the trunk of Amerault’s car and the couple then drove separate cars four hours north to Errol where they stopped at a general store. Armando Barron bought cleaning supplies, according to court records.
Driving further, they got to the remote campsite where Armando Barron burned Amerault’s I.D. and other documents, and ordered his wife to clean the car, according to court records.
They then drove further into the woods, damaging Amerault’s car in the process. At this second campsite, Armando Barron ordered his wife to cut off Amerault’s head with a saw, and then he left her to hide the body, according to court records.
Some hunters in the Atkinson and Gilmanton Academy Grant had come across Britany Barron and told her she was trespassing and that she was in danger from bears. Her campsite was close to a bear baiting site, according to court records. The hunters contacted New Hampshire Fish and Game, and two conservation officers went into the woods to find her.
“I’m in big trouble,” Britany Barron reportedly told the officers when they found her.