By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
KEENE — Armando Barron, the Jaffrey man accused of murdering the man his wife was flirting with and then forcing her to cut off his head, now claims his wife committed the gruesome 2020 murder.
“The wrong person is on trial for the murder of Jonathan Amerault,” said Morgan Taggart-Hampton, one of Armando Barron’s attorneys, during Tuesday’s opening arguments in his first-degree murder trial.
Armando Barron’s defense to blame his wife, Britany Barron, for the killing comes with his admitting to assaulting his wife and Amerault during the Sept. 19, 2020, ordeal in Rindge. Taggart-Hampton accused Britany Barron of killing Amerault after she was severely beaten by her husband.
Assistant Attorney General Scott Chase put the blame for Amerault’s murder squarely on Armando Barron. He showed the jury photos of Britany Barron’s bloodied and bruised face, x-ray images of Amerault’s skull showing the bullets lodged there, and Armando Barron’s police booking photo. Armando Barron did not have any mark or scratch when he was arrested, Chase said.
“The photos tell you who was beat, and who was doing the beating. This is about the defendant’s rage. This is about his jealousy. This is about his control,” Chase said. “He manipulated his wife into doing unspeakable things.”
The trial is expected to go through to next week and prosecutors will be presenting evidence and witnesses in the case, including Britany Barron.
“She saw what happened, she felt what happened that night,” Chase said. “The defendant killed the only other person, the person he knew he couldn’t manipulate, the person he knew he couldn’t control.”
Taggart-Hampton said Britany Barron’s testimony is tainted by her plea agreement that already has her out on the street, and it will be contradicted by the physical evidence in the case.
“Her claims are beyond belief,” Taggart-Hampton said.
Tuesday’s trial started with a jury view of locations in Jaffrey: the neighborhood downtown near the Barrons’ home; the Teleflex Medical building where Britany Barron and Amerault both worked; and the woods in Annett Wayside Park where Amerault was tortured and murdered. Armando Barron accompanied the jurors and attorneys during the views in Jaffrey and Rindge before the opening arguments started at the Cheshire Superior Court in Keene.
Jonathan Amerault was a successful engineer at the biomedical company, and Britany Barron was a production line worker when they started a flirting, texting relationship. He was lonely and looking for a relationship, and she was trying to get out of her abusive marriage, according to Chase. The relationship was just getting started before the murder, and the couple had kissed twice.
“Those two kisses set in motion unimaginable crimes,” Chase said.
On Sept. 19 Armando Barron discovered the text messages, sent their young daughters next door to their grandparents, and then savagely beat Britany. At one point he put a loaded .45 caliber revolver in her mouth and threatened to kill her, he said.
“He attacked Britany without hesitation and without mercy,” Chase said. “He shoved the gun into her mouth and told her, ‘You’re going to die.’”
Armando Barron then told his wife to get into his Jeep with him, or their young daughters would “see something nasty or messy,” Chase said.
During the drive to Annett Wayside Park in Rindge, Armando Barron read his wife’s texts and asked about Amerault, hitting her if he didn’t like the answers, Chase said. During the drive he broke her nose and blood gushed out, Chase said.
Armando Barron used his wife’s phone to lure Amerault to the park, and then abused Amerault when he got to the woods around 11:40 p.m. At gunpoint, Armando Barron beat and stomped Amerault, leaving shoe impressions on his head that would be visible still days later during the autopsy, Chase said.
“But pain wasn’t enough. He was going to terrorize both of them,” Chase said.
Armando Barron ordered his wife first to step on Amerault’s neck to strangle him, then ordered her to shoot Amerault, and finally forced her to cut Amerault’s wrists, Chase said.
During the ordeal, Amerault begged for his life, but Armando Barron mocked him, Chase said. At one point during that night, Armando Barron left Britany Barron in the front seat of Amerault’s car, while Amerault was in the back. Amerault noticed the machete in the car and begged Britany Barron to use it, but she said no.
“After everything she’d seen after everything he had done to them, she knew (Armando Barron) was in control,” Chase said.
Armando Barron then got into the car and shot Amerault three times. He then forced his wife to drive Amerault’s car to their Main Street home in Jaffrey and pack camping supplies.
She told investigators she could hear Amerault moaning from the back of his car, but that eventually stopped.
Armando Barron then had his wife follow him to the remote campsite in Atkinson Gilmanton Academy Grant in Coos County, some of the most remote woods in the state.
During those hours-long drive he had her speak to him with her cell phone. They stopped at a store in Errol where Armando Barron bought tarps, shovels, bleach and other cleaning supplies.
At the campsite Armando Barron forced his wife to destroy evidence before he forced her to cut off Amerault’s head.
“He watched her as she did it to make sure she complied. That was the ultimate show of control,” Chase said.
Armando Barron left his wife in the woods with a gun and a list of tasks to help cover up the murder, Chase said.
Bear hunters, frustrated that Britany Barron was camping close to their hunting site, contacted Fish and Game officers. On Sept. 22, 2020, the Fish and Game officer found her at the camp. She initially lied about why she was there.
At this point, Amerault’s mother reported her son missing, and police were investigating the Barrons after Britany did not show up to work. Armando Barron told police he had left his wife at the woods in Temple at 2 a.m. on Sunday so she could hike with friends. He agreed to go to the Jaffrey police station to talk to investigators, but instead fled, Chase said.
When Armando Barron was arrested on Sept. 25, 2020, in Errol, he was driving a truck loaded in the back with soil, cement buckets, and cement mix.
“OK, so she finally called you guys,” he reportedly said during his arrest.
Britany Barron will be the star witness in the trial and is expected to take the stand Wednesday afternoon. On Tuesday, Amerault’s mother, Justine Amerault, tearfully spoke about realizing her son was missing and reporting that to police. Amerault’s friend, Austin Zuercher, testified about how excited his friend was to be starting his relationship with Britany Barron.
Britany Barron pleaded guilty to evidence tampering last year for cutting off Amerault’s head. She was sentenced to three and a half to seven years in prison, with two years suspended from the minimum and maximum sentences. She also got 377 days credit for time already served. She was released on parole earlier this year.