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Barksdale may plead guilty
Athens man expected to accept life without parole in police slayings

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — A man accused of shooting and killing two Athens police officers is expected to accept a plea that would give him life without parole.

Limestone County District Attorney Kristi Valls was to hold a press conference Thursday morning at the courthouse. She issued a press release Wednesday that stated the conference was with regard to "a turn of events" in the Farron Barksdale case.

Barksdale's defense attorneys, Jake Watson and Robert Tuten, did not return The Daily's calls about a plea bargain, but sources said the turn of events was for Barksdale to plead guilty to capital murder and accept life without parole.

If found guilty of capital murder, Barksdale would have faced the possibility of the death penalty.

Not before judge yet

The plea bargain had not been before Circuit Court Judge Bob Baker as of Wednesday evening and was not on the court schedule for Thursday, but court was to start Thursday at 9 a.m. Baker would have to approve the plea agreement.

Barksdale's defense attorneys have never denied he killed the officers, but said he is a paranoid schizophrenic who didn't know what he was doing. Barksdale's mental competency trial was to start Monday before Baker. If found competent, Barksdale's murder trial would have started Aug. 6 with jury selection.

Authorities said Barksdale ambushed officer Tony Mims and Sgt. Larry Russell, shooting them multiple times Jan. 2, 2004.

Barksdale called 911 and asked for the FBI to come to his mother's home at 304 Horton St. Those calls went to Athens police.

Mims responded first. He pulled up to the home, and before he could shift into park or unbuckle his seat belt, Barksdale shot 11 rounds from inside the house through a closed window, Capt. Marty Bruce said.

He used an assault rifle he bought at a Huntsville pawnshop.

Seven bullets hit Mims, going through his bulletproof vest.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the 40-year-old Mims was the nation's first police officer killed on duty in 2004.

Moments later, Russell arrived and put his car into park and tried to get out, possibly to take cover, Bruce said. Two bullets hit Russell as he got out of his vehicle, making him the nation's second officer slain in 2004. He was 42.

A grand jury indicted Barksdale, 32, on five counts of capital murder and two counts of shooting into an occupied vehicle. The five counts were for killing the two police officers, shooting into two police cars, and killing two people at the same time.

The Daily was unable to reach Russell's and Mims' widows, but in an interview on the one-year anniversary of the shootings, Russell's widow, Michele, said she worried about the pain a trial would bring her family.

"We don't want to spend our lives dwelling on Farron Barksdale, but instead dwelling on Larry and what we had with him," she said.

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