Defense: Victims' white-supremacist tattoos key in killings at Arkansas junkyard

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White-supremacist tattoos on the bodies of two people killed in a Russellville salvage yard are relevant and should be presented to a jury during the trial of business owner Tyler Barefield, defense attorneys argued.

The defense argument, filed in Pope County Circuit Court, was in response to the prosecution’s request to exclude the tattoos as evidence on the basis that such symbols would be “far more prejudicial than probative under the Arkansas Rules of Evidence.”

Barefield, 36, is charged with capital murder in the Sept. 16, 2016, deaths of Beau Dewitt, 22, and Aaron Brock, 22, both of Dardanelle. Investigators say Barefield shot the men at his business, U-Pull-It Auto Parts, where authorities say the two had gone to steal car parts.

Found on the victims’ arms, legs, head and chest, the tattoos included swastikas and SS bolts, defense attorneys John Kennedy and Patrick Benca said in the response filed Tuesday.

“The decedents were known to Barefield, and to other individuals around the [River Valley], as convicted felons who were members of violent white supremacy groups,” the defense wrote.

The defense said it intends to show that several witnesses have hidden or destroyed evidence or were lying to law enforcement authorities when discussing whether the victims were involved in white-supremacy groups and criminal activity on the night in question. Evidence likely will be established that the witnesses lied or misled authorities and are not only familiar with the white-supremacy groups to which the victims belonged but are sympathetic with them, the defense added.

The defense argued that the victims’ families believed certain white-supremacy group members or “sympathizers” confronted the victims at the U-Pull-It yard and killed them for either violating the groups’ rules or for dating some supremacists’ girlfriends.

The tattoos are “highly relevant” to the case, the defense said, because they’ll relate to the issues of witnesses’ bias and honesty and to Barefield’s fear that the victims were about to use deadly force against him that night and the knowledge that he had regarding the victims and their white-supremacist groups.

The tattoos cause only “minimal prejudice” and speak to the motives of other people who may have killed the victims since the family thought some higher-ranking supremacists had been angry with the victims, the defense said.

Prosecuting Attorney David Gibbons previously argued that to the state’s knowledge, “the tattoos are not relevant to the manner or cause of the deaths of either victim.”

Gibbons said pictures showing the manner in which the victims were shot, died and crushed can be presented without viewing any of the tattoos.

Barefield is due in court Oct. 16, when a pretrial hearing is scheduled. He is free on $850,000 bond.

State Desk on 09/28/2017

Print Headline: Defense: Victims’ tattoos key; Nazi markings evidence in junkyard killings, judge is told

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