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Jennifer Walters worked as a babysitter for a single father, Jack Barron, who worked nightshift. He had two sweet children, 4-year-old Jeremy and 2-year-old Ashley, who were usually asleep by the time Jennifer got there. On Saturday night, the 6th of February, Jennifer arrived at the usual time, but something wasn't right. No one seemed to be home. She knocked on the front door and waited, by there was no answer.
Jennifer drove home and called Jack Barron right away. He answered the home phone and said that he must have been in the shower when she knocked. Jack asked her to come back. She returned, and Jack told her that he had sent the kids to their room to sleep. Jennifer went with Jack to check on them, and it looked like they were both fast asleep.
Jack left her in the living room and went to have a quick nap before his night shift as a grocery stacker at Lucky's Grocery Store began.
Little Ashley woke up, and Jennifer helped her back to her bed in the room she shared with her big brother Jeremy. He was still in the same position as before, but Jennifer had a bad feeling… She went closer to check on him, and he was unresponsive. Jennifer ran to Jack's room to tell him that something was wrong with his little boy, then rushed to the phone to dial 9-1-1.
The operator told her that she or Jack should perform CPR on Jeremy. Jennifer rushed back to the room and asked Jack if he could try to revive his son. He went into the children's room, had one look at him and then refused. Jennifer couldn't understand why Jack wasn't doing anything. Jack left the room and simply said that it was too late, Jeremy was no longer alive.
Paramedics arrived and found an unresponsive Jeremy. Although there was nothing that could be done for the 4-year-old boy, they tried everything they could to help him. Sadly, Jeremy could not be revived.
This was an unspeakable tragedy. Like Jeremy, Jack Barron's wife Irene was found deceased in her bedroom – only eight months before. At the time of Jeremy's passing, police had not been able to determine the cause of her mysterious death.
Jack had lost his wife and his firstborn child, less than a year apart. The community felt sorry for him and pooled together to help him in any way possible. They brought home-cooked meals, babysat little Ashley and even gave him financial support.
But there was something more sinister behind these murders, and Jack Barron knew exactly what he was doing…
Jack Barron was born in California in 1961 and spent the first years of his life in Orange County. His father, Elmore, was a railway engineer and wasn’t at home much. When he was around, he was very strict, and Jack had to watch his step. Jack's mother, Roberta, did everything she could to give Jack a happy home. Mother and son were always close and growing up, Jack’s friends called him a Mama’s Boy.
His parents divorced when Jack was 13, and he did not see his father all that often. He was a single child raised by a single mother. Despite Elmore's distant attitude towards Jack, he idolised his dad. Roberta decided to leave Orange County for her native Northern California, and they moved to Sacramento.
Roberta was a devout Catholic who was very involved in the church. Together with Jack, she attended church as often as she could. Roberta and Jack had a co-dependent relationship and clung to each other. They clashed at times too, but most of the time they were very close as they were the only family each other had. Jack always pined after his father and dreamt of one day following in Elmore’s footsteps by working for the railways too.
Things were tough when they first arrived. Roberta had to rely on welfare for a while, but eventually found a job at a Safeway Supermarket. She met Bob Butler at work, and they started seeing each other socially. By the time Jack was 18, the couple was ready to move in together and get married. Jack moved with them to Port Costa, where he completed high school.
His first job was in a grocery store, like his mom and stepdad. But he did not want to give up his dream of working for the railways, which he did for a short while before he suffered a knee injury. He was forced to resign in 1986 and claimed disability, before returning to another retail job. He still loved everything related to trains and collected all sorts of train-related paraphernalia.
In February 1986, 24-year-old Jack met Irene Paget through a mutual friend. She was four years older than him, but that didn’t bother them. They hit it off immediately and started dating. Irene's background was very different from Jack's. She was born in Reno, Nevada to father Jack and mother Norma on the 18th of July 1957. Her dad worked as a radar specialist in the air force. Irene was the fourth and youngest child of the large and loving Paget family.
In getting to know Irene’s family, Jack experienced the love and kindness of a functional family first time in his life. Irene had two older brothers, John and Paul and a sister Debra. Because of her father's work in the air force, the family moved all over the world. Growing up, the siblings relied on each other, as they barely had time to make friends at a new school before the family moved again.
Irene was a mild-mannered and sweet person who only saw the good in other people. When her father retired from the air force, the family eventually settled in Fallbrook, California. Irene was a teenager at the time and enjoyed the pace of the small town, unlike other kids her age who preferred the hustle and bustle of nearby San Diego or Los Angeles. She wasn't interested in academics and preferred spending her time with animals on her family's extensive property. If she could be outdoors, she was happy.
Irene was more than just a free and caring spirit, she was also beautiful. In 1974, during her senior year, she won the title of Miss Fallbrook. Irene loved this because it made many young men notice her. She welcomed the attention because all she really wanted for her future was to be a wife and a mother.
A year after graduating, she married her high school sweetheart, Keith. But the marriage didn’t last. Keith felt he was too young for the commitment of marriage and left her. This was a devastating blow for Irene, who valued a nuclear family above everything else. She took a lot of guilt on herself because the marriage failed. She struggled to get over it and realised she needed a change in her life. So, in 1986, she decided to make a fresh start in Sacramento.
She was drawn to the city because it wasn't as big as Los Angeles or San Francisco. She convinced her best friend, Denise, to go with her. She also had a cousin who lived in Sacramento, so she did not feel alone. Soon after arriving in Sacramento, Irene found a job as a receptionist.
Then she met Jack Barron. He was younger than her, but she didn't mind. It didn't take long for the relationship to become serious and after dating for eight months, they moved in together in Mount Shasta.
When Irene's family met Jack, they were surprised, he was not what they had expected. Jack was not the type of guy Irene would usually go for. He was a big guy, quite a bit taller than Irene. Looking at his behaviour, it was also evident that he was younger than her. His actions and comments were a bit random, childish even. They could not help but wonder if Irene got together with him, hoping she could mould him into the perfect husband. But if he made her happy, that was all that mattered to them.
In the spring of 1988, Irene discovered she was pregnant. Jack proposed, and by July, they were married and settled in Sacramento. In the late eighties and early nineties, Sacramento was expanding at a rapid pace. New residential developments popped up everywhere. Jack and Irene lived in one of the newly developed areas in a modest family home at 7724 Southbreeze Drive, south of the city centre.
On the 8th of January 1989, their son, Jeremy was born, and from the outside in, everything looked picture perfect. But that wasn't the case. From the start, there was tension in the Barron household. Irene's mother recalled friction between Jack's mother, Roberta and her new daughter-in-law. Roberta reportedly let herself into the couple's house and rearranged the furniture. Irene made it clear that she was NOT okay with that, a message that was passed on to Roberta through Jack. Roberta got the message and had to adapt to the fact that there was another woman in her son’s life who was more important to him than she was.
After Irene passed away, her family found out that she had converted to Catholicism. She never mentioned this to any of her family members. Everyone felt that she did it to stay in Roberta's good books, seeing as she was a devout Catholic.
Jack and Irene’s second child, a daughter they called Ashley, was born a year after Jeremy. By that time, the family had settled into their home and life in Sacramento. Jack found a job as a shelf stacker at a local supermarket, working night shifts. Irene operated a family daycare from her home. This worked well because she could be with her kids while earning some extra money.
As time went by, another side to Jack began to surface. His inate vanity became a problem. He spent more and more time looking at himself in the mirror and made sure he was always extremely clean. He hated perspiration and wiped his forehead with a handkerchief at the first sign of sweat. He was also temperamental and became increasingly controlling of Irene. Her friends were concerned that she had lost a lot of her independence because of Jack.
Irene's best friend who had moved to Sacramento with her, Denise, observed how Jack always wanted to be better than other families, competing with the Joneses to the extreme. When Denise and her husband spoke about buying a house, Jack went and bought one. He didn't tell anyone; even Irene was made to keep quiet about it until it was time to move in.
At home, Jack cleaned obsessively. This placed tremendous pressure on Irene with two small kids in the house. Jack would even walk behind her as she vacuumed and wipe away the vacuum tracks left on the carpet. He did not like his kids playing outside and getting dirty or wet and always had a damp cloth in a Ziploc bag whenever they went on family outings.
In May 1992, almost four years into their marriage, Irene suspected Jack was having an affair with someone at work. He had gone away for a weekend with fellow train-enthusiasts but would not give her the phone number of the hotel where they were staying. When Irene confronted Jack with her suspicion, he put her mind at ease and told her that she was the only woman in his life.
A couple of weeks after that confrontation, Irene was dead.
On the 8th of June 1992, Christina Hamilton arrived at the Barron home to drop off her daughter for day care. She was a neighbour who knew Irene well, seeing as though she cared for her daughter. But on that day, nobody seemed to be home. Christina found it strange, as Irene was always there and would have let her know if plans had changed. It was just after 7 AM and Christina did not have time to look for Irene, as she had to go to work.
Christina left her daughter with another neighbour and went on her way. But she could not shake the feeling that something was terribly wrong. She tried calling the Barron home, and when there was no answer, she decided to go back to see if everything was okay.
Christina arrived back around 8 AM and knocked on the front door. There was no answer. She walked around the back and saw 3-year-old Jeremy through a window and asked him to open the door for her. He managed to let her in and told her that he was unable to wake his mother.
Irene was lying on the bed in the main bedroom and appeared to be unconscious. She was wearing a pink nightgown and fluffy slippers. Her feet were on the floor, her back on the bed and a pillow covered her face.
Christina called 9-1-1, and the operator instructed her to perform CPR while waiting for the ambulance. When she returned to the bedroom, she touched Irene for the first time and found her limbs were rigid and she was cold to the touch. Christina realised that Irene Barron was no longer alive.
Paramedics found a deceased 34-year-old Irene in her bedroom. Police arrived soon after and were perplexed when they looked around. Everything appeared to be normal, and there were no signs of forced entry. Remember, the house was locked when Christina arrived earlier.
It was not clear if Irene's death was due to natural causes and police realised they had to cover all bases. Detective Reisdorph requested the pathologist to come to the scene. This was unusual, as the procedure was for police officers and crime scene investigators to process the scene and the victim's body was usually taken to the pathologist's lab. But this wasn't a usual case, and investigators felt that the pathologist's opinion would be of great help.
The pathologist arrived at the scene shortly after 10 AM and studied the position of Irene's body. A pillow above Irene's head had blood on it. On the other pillow covering her face were black smudges. The pathologist felt that it was made by Irene's make-up. The assumption was that she would have cleaned her face before she went to bed, so she
must have died before retiring for the night. The pathologist also took Irene's liver temperature and concluded that she passed away sometime between 7:30 PM the night before and 7 AM when she failed to answer Christina's knock on the front door.
Jack Barron arrived home after work, at 9:30 AM and found police tape around his house. There was a buzz of activity with emergency services and police officers coming in and out. When he was told about his wife's death, Jack was distraught and cried. He wanted to go into the house to see her, but officers wouldn't allow it. Then he asked about Jeremy and Ashley and was told that they were at Christina Hamilton's home down the road.
Police interviewed Jack about the time leading up to Irene's death. He said that he left for work at 11 PM. When he left, Irene was still awake. Nothing seemed out of place, and she was her usual self.
A friend of Irene’s told police that in the week leading up to her death, Irene was complaining of severe headaches. In fact, it was so bad, her speech was slurred. Police found it strange that Jack had not mentioned it. A work colleague of Jack’s, Starla Hayes, said that when he arrived at work, he looked sick and told her that he was concerned about Irene's headaches. Jack offered to stay home, but Irene wanted him to work as they needed the money. So she wasn't okay as he had said, or was he trying to set up a story?
The pathologist could not determine if she died due to natural causes or if her life was ended by someone else. She had some bruises on her body, but she could have had them from before, there was no way of telling. She had multiple haemorrhages, but it was not enough evidence in itself to conclude that she had been strangled.
One theory was that Irene had a bad headache and went to lie down before she was ready for bed. She put the pillow over her own head for comfort, and then passed away. This did not seem likely. There was haemorrhaging in her eyes, supporting another theory – that she was suffocated. But this could not be definitively ruled as a cause of death, because similar haemorrhaging can occur when someone suffers a heart attack.
Jack was devastated, and his family and the community were very supportive of him. Irene's friends drew up a food roster and dropped off cooked meals at home. Others gave him cash as they were under the impression he only had his own income to rely on.
After Irene’s death, her brother John paid Jack $100 a month to help out in case the kids needed anything. But when he did Jack's tax return, he realised that he was actually very well off financially. Yet he never hesitated to accept anyone's offer to help. Jack received $15,000 in death benefits after Irene passed away, as well as income from social security. There was also regular money from his job as a shelf stacker. John decided to stop sending cheques and was surprised when he received a phone call from Jack when it didn't arrive. John wasn’t about to slander his dead sister’s husband and did not tell anyone about this at the time.
Then Jack made a decision that shocked everyone in his inner circle. Only a month after Irene's funeral, he announced that Starla Hayes, a female co-worker was moving into his house.
Jack claimed that Starla was having marital problems and that he only provided her with a place to stay. Jack insisted that they were only friends and that there was nothing romantic between them. Starla's kids were 6 and 8, and both Starla and Jack thought it would be a good idea (from a practical point of view) to share responsibilities as they worked at odd hours and could help each other out with babysitting while the other one was at Lucky's.
But before long there was friction in the house. This was mainly between Jack and Starla’s kids, as well as his own kids. Starla said that Jack had a violent temper, especially towards Jeremy and Ashley. She recalled one incident when Jeremy cried for his mom. Jack lost it and said:
"If you don't shut up, I'll send you to where Mommy is!"
Starla moved out shortly afterwards, but the fact that Jack was opening his home to another woman so soon after Irene's death was enough to make family and friends wonder if he could have had anything to do with Irene's mysterious death.
Trying to cope with life as a single, working dad, Jack hired Jennifer Walker to look after the kids when he went to work. Things were just about to normalise around the Barron house. That is, until little Jeremy's death, that was eerily similar to his mother's death eight months prior.
Investigators attending the scene of 4-year-old Jeremy Barron's death in his Sacramento home could not find any apparent explanations as to how he had died. He was in his bed, and it looked like he had mysteriously passed away in his sleep.
Jeremy's autopsy revealed a red mark on his face, as well as multiple haemorrhages. Other than that, he had no further injuries. It took the coroner more than six months to make a ruling: Jeremy's cause of death was declared to be undetermined.
His mother, Irene's death, was also still shrouded in mystery, and the coroner believed that there was something in the house that had caused the deaths of both mother and son.
Investigators questioned Jack Barron. They asked if there was anything out of the ordinary on the evening of Jeremy's passing. Jack said that his son was suffering from a cold and that he had given him cough syrup. Was it possible that the medicine had somehow caused Jeremy's death? Perhaps Irene Barron had also taken it before she died.
Extensive tests were run, not only on the cough syrup but on all medication found in the household. The tests came back clean, it contained nothing that could have caused the unexplained deaths of mother and son.
Investigators wondered if the incidents were linked to genetics. Irene's family volunteered to have genetic testing done, but no abnormalities were detected.
After Jeremy's funeral, family and friends rallied around Jack once more, supporting him in any which way they could. Irene's best friend Denise did whatever she could to help Jack. But she couldn’t help wondering if he had something to do with her and Jeremy’s deaths.
And she wasn’t alone in her suspicion. Irene’s family helped Jack with anything from babysitting to cooking meals, but they felt Jack was behaving strangely. Irene's brother, John Paget, noticed Jack's lack of emotion at Jeremy's funeral. He did not shed a single tear. And in fact, the gathering afterwards felt almost like a party. John Paget said:
"He didn't seem to have a grasp on the trauma that the rest of us in the family was experiencing. He was at times, almost euphoric with the attention he was getting with all the deaths."
Shortly after the funeral, Jack held a garage sale, where he sold all of Jeremy's toys and clothes.
The broader community still supported Jack, the grieving widower and father. Jack found solace in listening to music – he was a massive fan of country singer Wynonna Judd. When the president of her fan club heard about Jack's tragic life, he told her about it. Wynonna arranged for Jack to attend one of her shows for free and then meet her backstage. When she met him, she expressed her sympathy and gave him two tickets for another show.
Jack went to the second concert with Ashley and met Wynonna again. He made sure to take a lot of photos and replaced all pictures of him and Irene with images of him, Wynonna and Ashley. Jack told friends and co-workers that he had become romantically involved with the country star and that he was considering proposing to her. Nobody believed him, but seeing as he was going through a rough time, they let him be. They felt that he was just looking for attention.
But the thing with Wynonna Judd wasn't the only strange story – his insatiable craving for attention was not subtle at all. Jack wanted to be the centre of everyone's affection. With his life settling into a new kind of normal with only him and Ashley, people went on with their lives, and he received less attention and sympathy than directly after he had lost Irene and Jeremy.
On Irene's family's insistence, Jack Barron's only surviving child, two-year-old Ashley was taken to a paediatrician for a full medical examination. The doctor felt that there was a possibility Irene and Jeremy passed away due to complications related to sleep apnea. This is a sleep disorder that affects one's breathing while you are sleeping. Breathing stops and starts in an irregular pattern. If severe sleep apnea is left untreated, it can increase the risk of heart disease. In extreme instances, it can cause death.
The paediatrician suspected Ashley, like her mother and brother, also suffered from the condition. To test her, he fitted a heart monitor that she had to wear for a couple of days. Ashley was only two years old and was not very keen on wearing the strap around her upper body. Despite the doctor's insistence, Jack did not force her to wear it.
The doctor spoke to Jack and told him that it was crucial Ashley wore the monitor, so they could make a diagnosis. Jack said that he was too busy to ensure Ashley was wearing it all the time. Irene's family watched Ashley like hawks, they looked for any sign of breathing difficulty or anything that could indicate an underlying medical problem. But she was okay, considering she had lost her mother and her brother in a short amount of time.
Jack hired a new babysitter, Jill Presley, to look after Ashley when he was at work. Jill was a qualified nurse, and Irene's family felt that Ashely was in good hands. When Jill met Jack, he instructed her to stay awake throughout the night and watch Ashley while she slept, as she had heart problems.
On the night of the 7th of April 1994, Jill arrived at the Barron home to look after Ashley. She checked on her around 10:30 PM, and she was in her room, asleep, lying on her right side. Then Jill went back to the living room, said goodbye to Jack as he left for work and settled in for the night. For the first time since she's been looking after Ashley, Jill fell asleep. When she woke up around 4 AM, she immediately went to check on Ashley, who was in a different position than before. This time Ashley was on her back with the sheets pulled down, and her 101 Dalmatians pyjama top had been pulled up. When she went closer, Ashley's little body was lifeless, and she was not breathing.
Ashley had died, just like her mother and brother before her. This was unbelievable, how could one family suffer so much loss?
The macabre routine repeated itself with friends, family and neighbours congregating in the Barron home, supporting a seemingly devastated Jack. But he could not keep up appearances that well…
At Ashley’s funeral, Jack received flowers and a card from Wynonna Judd. He was also wearing his fan T-shirt with the word's 'Wy's Guy' (as in short for ‘Wynonna’s Guy’) to the funeral. The family found it in bad taste that even though it was his daughter's funeral, all Jack could talk about was Wynonna and how nice it was of her to have sent the flowers.
Ashley's post-mortem examination was puzzling. She had absolutely no injuries to her body. There were no signs of haemorrhaging, and she had no bruises. After many months, the coroner reached a result: 4-year-old Ashley Barron's death was ruled to be 'Undetermined', and the report stated that 'Homicidal Violence Cannot Be Excluded’.
Jack Barron had lost his whole family. All of them died in their home, seemingly in their sleep. But with no genetic or environmental reasons for their deaths, police felt it could not be considered to be a tragic coincidence. It was time to take a good, hard look at similarities between the deaths.
If you consider that Irene was murdered the night before she was found by her neighbour, that will make her date of death on the 7th of June 1992. If Jeremy was killed after midnight, he died on the 7th of February 1993. Ashley also passed away on the 7th of the month, in August 1994. All of them died on a Sunday the 7th. It forms an almost biblical pattern, sending them to the afterlife on a Sunday, on a date which is the 'divine number' of charity, grace, and the Holy Spirit.
However, since the causes of death could not be determined, as well as a lack of physical evidence, law enforcement did not push the investigation any further. If Jack was behind the deaths, it looked like he literally got away with murder.
After Ashley’s death, Jack sold the house on Southbreeze Drive and moved in with his mother, 52-year-old Roberta Butler. He quit Lucky’s and finally made a dream come true by taking a job at the railroads as an assistant conductor. He did not have a public-facing role but instead helped two other more experienced workers to retire the trains at the end of the night.
Roberta’s partner, Tim O'Keefe, moved out, because of how Jack treated Roberta. Jack was supposed to pay rent but never did. He was spending money only on himself and Roberta claimed to friends that he was seeing a married woman. Tim confronted Jack, and it flared up, resulting in Tim moving out because, as always, Roberta defended Jack.
A family friend, Carol Moreno, visited Roberta during this time and recalled that things between Roberta and Jack were tense. Although Roberta was always kind and patient towards Jack, he was rude and demeaning to her. Roberta also told her about something Jack had said after Jeremy's death. He told his mother that it was a good thing he died, seeing as it was easier to care for only one child.
This statement had clearly haunted Roberta for many months. She always had Jack’s back and refused to believe rumours that Jack had harmed his wife and children. Did she quietly suspect her son of murdering his own family? There is a record of her calling police four months after Ashley's death, on the 6th of November 1994, to ask if they had any idea what had caused her granddaughter’s death. They didn’t.
On the day Carol Moreno left Benicia, Roberta said that she was going to confront Jack about his behaviour and ask him to find his own place. This was the last time the friend saw Roberta alive.
Two days later, Jack discovered his mother's body inside her home. She was in her bedroom, on her waterbed, lying face-up with her feet still on the floor. Many documents were strewn about the room. The position in which she was found was eerily similar to the position in which Irene was found three years earlier.
Jack called 9-1-1 and when first responders arrived they determined that Roberta had been dead for quite a while because rigor mortis had already set in.
When questioned, Jack said the last time he spoke to her was 10 PM the previous night – over the phone. She said that she had a headache and that she was feeling tired. He told investigators that his mother had been under a lot of stress because of problems in the retail clerks' union. She worked as a safety director for Safeway Stores – a job that required her to travel often.
The coroner's deputy felt that Jack's tone was strange. He spoke about his mother's death matter-of-factly, he did not seem to be distraught about losing his mother, not in the least.
A neighbour mentioned to investigators that Jack had lost his whole family in the preceding years: his wife, then his son, then his daughter and now his mother. The neighbour felt nothing but sympathy for poor Jack, but investigators thought it was perhaps a red flag.
When the coroner ruled Roberta's death to be a homicide, Jack was the first person on their radar. They pieced together a timeline of the 25th of February, the day that Roberta’s body was found. A neighbour said she saw Jack outside of Roberta's condo around 12:30 PM then again after 2 PM. Jack said he left for work at 5:30 AM. A co-worker could vouch for his whereabouts for most of the time between 6:20 and 11:40. After that, he only saw him again and 12:50. In this period, Jack could have driven from the depot in Oakland to Benicia, arrive just after 12 PM, kill his mother, leave at 12:30 when he was seen by the neighbour, then returned to work where he was seen at 12:50. This was a bit tight, and the police did not feel it was possible.
However, Roberta was found in her nightgown in her bedroom, the blinds drawn. Her state of decomposition also implied that she had died sometime between midnight and 1 AM. Jack was asleep in the house at that time, and he said he left for work without seeing his mother. If he had gone back to the house, it was perhaps to see if she had been discovered. When he realised that she hadn't, he simply went back to work and decided to wait until the end of his shift before raising the alarm.
Investigators went back to the three other deaths in Jack’s family. They followed up with Sacramento police and were told that these mysterious deaths have always troubled them. If Jack Barron was responsible for the deaths, it was time to pay.
Investigators had another look at all evidence collected and found a statement from one of Jack's close friends. He said that Jack told him he would never go through with a divorce, he 'would do away with her first'. Which supports the idea that he had planned on killing Irene to get out of the marriage.
They also established that, on the night of Ashley's death, he was NOT at work for a period of 4 hours, between midnight and 4 AM. Precisely in the time that the babysitter, Jill Presley, had fallen asleep. Jill also said that, because it was a balmy night, Jack had made her some ice tea before he left for work, something that he had never done before. The implication was strong that he had drugged her. She only told investigators about the tea many months later, because, in the immediate aftermath of Ashley's death, she did not find Jack's behaviour to be strange. He was a grief-stricken dad who had lost the last member of his family, she did not even want to imagine that he could have caused it. Besides, she was guilt-ridden for falling asleep and felt responsible for little Ashley's death.
The investigation against him intensified. Jack's behaviour after the deaths of his loved ones, was the hallmark of Munchausen by Proxy. This is a character disorder, not a mental illness. It is related to antisocial disorder or excessive narcissism – an extreme form of self-love. The perpetrator fakes injury or disease in another person close to them to garner attention.
Jack was arrested in 1995 at Roberta’s condo in Benicia, five months after he killed her. He waited in Sacramento County Jail until the trial started five years later. In January of 2000, he stood trial for four murders: that of his wife, his son, his daughter and his mother.
The case against him was highly circumstantial. Even though police looked for evidence at the time of the individual deaths, there wasn't any. The prosecution made their case: in all instances, Jack Barron was the last one to see the victims alive. They all died in bed when they were at their most vulnerable. Barron's marriage was failing, and he wanted out, but he did not want to pay alimony. Irene did not want a second divorce, and as a fierce believer in the importance of a nuclear family, she begged him to work things out.
Jack felt the only way out was to kill her and the children she left behind. Besides all the attention and sympathy he enjoyed after they died, he received a lot of money: a total of $15,000 for Irene and a further $13,000 each after Jeremy and Ashley died. He also stood to inherit $130,000 from his mother's estate.
Jack Barron denied killing his family and his mother and felt police were out on a witch hunt. He tried to convince the court that a rare genetic disease was the cause of the deaths. Cardiologist, Dr Steven Correa, testified that in his opinion, the three Barron victims died due to ‘Long QT Syndrome’. It is a rare, genetic heart disorder that causes irregular and sometimes dangerous arrhythmias. He made this conclusion after studying Ashley’s 1993 electrocardiogram.
However, Roberta and Irene did not have the same genetic make-up, so that did not make any sense. Irene’s parents and siblings also dismissed the theory as there is no history of heart disorders in their family.
Jack professed his innocence and insisted they were a happy family and that he was devastated after losing them all. Irene’s own words put him in his place. A letter was found after she died, addressed to Jack, that gave insight into their challenging marriage:
I am really sorry you're unhappy right now. I have a hard time believing the only reason for this is my inability to keep the house exactly the way you like it.… We usually have so much fun together. We have so much to be happy and thankful for … It really upsets me when I hear you talk about divorce … Things have been so good for us for so long, you don't just wake up one day and suddenly decide something like that.
All my love,
On April 15th 2000, Jack Barron was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences for suffocating Irene, Jeremy and Roberta. He was controversially acquitted of Ashley’s murder. The Defence managed to create reasonable doubt as to the time of Ashley’s death, seeing as the babysitter was not 100% sure about what time it was when she checked on Ashley. It was impossible to conclude that Ashley passed away after Jack had left for work. He was in charge of shelf-stocking at work that night and many people would have noticed if he had left. Well, that was the argument.
To this day, Jack Barron maintains he committed no crimes. He claims that Irene, Jeremy and Ashley all died because of a heart condition. As for Roberta, he simply claims there was not enough evidence to have convicted him.
Before he was sentenced, Wynonna's Judd's Husband received an anonymous phone call from a man threatening to kill him and their son Elijah. Authorities believed the call was made by Jack Barron.
Through the years he has tried to change his sentence, insisting that he is innocent. Still, authorities refuse to buy into his self-victimisation and believe he is where he should be - behind bars, paying for the fact that he killed his whole family.
If you’d like to read more about this case, have a look at the resources used for this episode in the show notes.
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