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Farron Barksdale is taken to  court  in Athens in 2005 for a hearing. He was hospitalized in Montgomery on Saturday.
Daily file photo by John Godbey
Farron Barksdourt in Athens in 2005 for a hearing. He was hospitalized in Montgomery on Saturday.

Cop killer on life support
Farron Barksdale ill with 'heat-related' problems; officials discount rumors slayer of 2 Athens officers was assaulted

From staff reports

Farron Barksdale, who pleaded guilty to capital murder to avoid the death penalty for killing two Athens police officers, was on life support Sunday in a Montgomery hospital.

Prison officials took Barksdale, 32, of Athens to the hospital Saturday with symptoms of "heat-related problems complicated by an upper respiratory condition," said state Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen.

But he said doctors found marks on Barksdale that they believed were four or five days old.

Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett discounted rumors that Barksdale was assaulted at Kilby Correctional Facility, and Allen said there was "no altercation" at Kilby involving the inmate.

"From the time he came into Kilby, he was in a single cell," Corbett said. "There is no way that something happened at Kilby."

Limestone County deputies took Barksdale to Kilby on Wednesday, following his trial a week ago in Athens.

Limestone Sheriff Mike Blakely said that when he heard Barksdale might have been beaten, he had jail video checked and talked to the deputies who transported him.

"He did not have any injuries when he left Limestone," Blakely said. "He was fine. He has been in isolation since before we transported him."

The Department of Corrections on Saturday began a routine internal investigation of the inmate's situation, Allen said.

Corbett said prison officials talked with Barksdale’s mother, Mary Barksdale of Athens, and would arrange for the family to visit him at the hospital.

But William Barksdale, Farron Barksdale’s father, said Sunday night that he had not been able to get much information.

After hearing that his son was in Montgomery’s Baptist Medical Center South, he said,
he called there and the
hospital confirmed it but told him little else. The parents are divorced.

“It’s just hard when nobody will tell you anything,” William Barksdale said. “We’re just trying to find out what’s going on, and it’s not easy. ... All they could tell us was that he’s alive, still alive.”

Life support

William’s sister and Farron’s aunt, Dorothy Ford of Athens, said later Sunday that the hospital had called back, urging the parents to come to Montgomery quickly. Allen had said earlier that Barksdale was on life support.

Farron Barksdale pleaded guilty to five counts of capital murder in what authorities called the ambush-style shooting of officer Tony Mims and Sgt. Larry Russell.

The two officers were responding to multiple 911 calls that Barksdale made on Jan. 2, 2004.

Blakely said Sunday that officials from Kilby had contacted his office twice since Wednesday.

“I was informed by the medical staff that a nurse called Wednesday evening to ask what type medication he had been taking because he was hearing voices, and they were going to put him in the hospital,” Blakely said.

Barksdale’s defense attorneys have said he is a paranoid schizophrenic who abused drugs.

“Someone from the prison called again on Saturday and told my medical staff that it appeared he had been beat up,” Blakely said.

Intake process

The inmate was in the midst of a required seven- to eight-day intake process that all new inmates undergo. Allen said the intake begins with three days of quarantine to check for communicable diseases. Medical and psychological tests follow
the quarantine.

Allen said heat is a serious problem in the state’s prisons, which are overcrowded and not air-conditioned.

With temperatures exceeding 100 degrees for most of the past week, inmates were on limited physical activity during the weekend, with the men wearing only their underwear to keep them as cool as possible, he said.

“We are offering lots of ice and have lots of fans, but the fans are only moving hot air.”

Ford, the inmate’s aunt, said the state had apparently tried to make some calls to the family during the weekend but had not continued to call. She wants prison officials to stay in contact with Barksdale’s parents when something is physically wrong with the inmate.

“We’ve been through hell,” she said. “It’s a tragedy.”

Ford said her main concern is “my mentally ill nephew.”

“We have grieved for the people that are concerned on the other side so much, and we have to grieve ourselves, too,” she said. “This is like living death, and we have not been able to tell the other folks how very sorry we are for their loss.”

From a window inside a home on Horton Street, Barksdale shot 10 rounds from a 7.63 mm assault rifle and killed Mims as he pulled into the driveway. He reloaded and shot Russell as he opened his car door.

Barksdale’s attorneys, Robert Tuten and Jake Watson, have never denied that their client shot Mims and Russell.

They did argue unsuccessfully that Barksdale was a paranoid schizophrenic and didn’t know what he was doing. State doctors found him competent to stand trial.

Even with his guilty plea, state law required a jury to confirm that the state had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. That happened Aug. 6.

After listening to 911
tapes and dispatch recordings that captured the officers’ final moments, it took a jury of 11 men and one woman less than 15 minutes to find Barksdale guilty.

Circuit Judge Bob Baker sentenced him to life without parole on each capital murder count.

He also gave him two
10-year sentences plus a $10,000 fine for two additional charges of shooting into an occupied vehicle.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said she could not confirm or deny that Barksdale was in the hospital or release any information about his condition. Deangelo McDaniel compiled this story from reporting by himself, M.J. Ellington, Holly Hollman and Steve Stewart.

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