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Barksdale autopsy
Preliminary report offers no clues as to cause of death

By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — A preliminary autopsy report on a confessed police killer who died shortly after entering state prison reveals no clues about the cause of his death. Officials said Tuesday it could take weeks for a final report.

Alabama's interim chief medical examiner, Dr. Kenneth S. Snell, performed the autopsy on Farron Barksdale, 32, who pleaded guilty to killing two Athens police officers in 2004 and was found unresponsive in his Kilby prison cell three days after arriving at the prison.

'The manner of death is pending'

"Based on the findings of this examination and the presently known circumstances of the death, it is my opinion that the cause of death is pending. The manner of death is pending," Snell wrote.

He said the preliminary report was intended to expedite the death certificate and should not be used for grand jury or court proceedings in lieu of the final report, which he said will be forwarded to the district attorney and “the appropriate investigative agency.”

Montgomery District Attorney Ellen Brooks said her office has not opened an investigation into Barksdale’s death and would not speculate about the possibility.

She said the final autopsy report is just “one factor” that could be used to determine whether or not to investigate.

Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said Tuesday that an internal investigation is ongoing, but it could be weeks before the findings are issued.

“We have no reason to believe right now that this inmate was abused or was involved in an altercation,” Corbett said. “He did have what appeared to be old bruises. We weren’t sure what they were from or what the cause appeared to have been.”

Huntsville attorney Jake Watson, who represented Barksdale, said the man’s parents have not been contacted by corrections officials and are waiting for answers about their son’s death.

“They want to know what happened,” he said.

Barksdale, who had suffered from mental illness, was found unresponsive in his cell at Kilby prison on Aug. 11. Prison officials said he had a high fever, symptoms of systemic infection, and marks or bruises on his pelvis. Never regaining consciousness, he died Aug. 20 at a Montgomery hospital after family members agreed that he be taken off life support.

Barksdale was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but psychiatrists found him competent to stand trial.

He pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty in the Jan. 2, 2004, slaying of Athens police officer Tony Mims and Sgt. Larry Russell. Barksdale shot the officers from inside his mother’s home as they responded to his 911 call.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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