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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2007
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Autopsy set for Barksdale

By M.J. Ellington
· mjellington@decaturdaily.com
(334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — A state corrections department official confirmed Tuesday that an autopsy will be performed on Farron Barksdale, whose life sentence for killing two Athens police officers ended two weeks after it began.

Barksdale, 32, died at 5:45 p.m. Monday in a Montgomery hospital. Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said Barksdale’s death came hours after his family asked that he be removed from life support. Corbett said officials hope the autopsy by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences will explain the cause of death for Barksdale, who had been hospitalized and on life support since Aug. 11.

Funeral services for Barksdale were scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at McConnell Funeral Home in Athens. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service.

William Barksdale, his father, said the situation is difficult. “I’ve been so torn up, I’ve just tried to do what I could to hold the family together,” he said.

Guards at Kilby Correctional Facility found Farron Barksdale unresponsive on his bunk on Aug. 11, three days after Limestone County sheriff’s deputies transported him to the Montgomery prison to begin the sentence.

Kilby employees took Barksdale to the hospital the same day with a high fever, symptoms of a systemic infection and unexplained marks and bruises on his pelvis. He never regained consciousness.

Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely said DOC has not been in contact with him about Barksdale’s medical problems or the investigation since Aug. 13. On that day, a DOC investigator got surveillance tapes from the jail and statements from jail staff.

The sheriff said the investigation into what put Barksdale into the hospital likely will reveal there was not a beating.

“I think that probably it was just medical complications and the heat,” Blakely said. “I think prison officials jumped to conclusions about a beating before they knew what was wrong with him.”

Though diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Barksdale was declared competent to stand trial for the Jan. 2, 2004, slaying of Athens police officer Tony Mims and Sgt. Larry Russell.

Barksdale shot Mims and Russell from inside his mother’s home as they responded to his 911 call for help. He pleaded guilty to five counts of capital murder and two counts of shooting into an occupied vehicle after psychiatric evaluation found him competent to stand trial.

An internal prison system investigation began the day Barksdale entered the hospital, and Corbett said the investigation is ongoing. It could be weeks before investigators issue findings, he said.

Athens Police Chief Wayne Harper told The Daily on Monday that the three-year ordeal has been a “tragedy that has affected a lot of people.”

“We’re sorry for the pain his family is going through and the pain the Russell and Mims families continue to go through,” Harper said.

An internal prison system investigation began the day Barksdale entered the hospital, and Corbett said Monday the investigation was ongoing. It could be weeks before investigators issue findings, he said.

Staff Writer Holly Hollman contributed to this story.

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