KEENE, N.H. (AP) — The lawyer for a New Hampshire man accused of killing his wife's co-worker after he discovered they were texting — and then forcing her to behead him — told jurors at the start of his trial Tuesday that his wife is the one to blame for the death.
Armando Barron admitted in court to assaulting his wife and her co-worker, Jonathan Amerault, but he did not kill him, his lawyer, Morgan Taggart-Hampton, said in opening statements.
"The wrong person is on trial," Taggart-Hampton said in court in Keene.
Armando Barron, 32, and his wife, Britany Barron, 33, were teens when they got married and had three children, but their relationship was troubled and she wanted a divorce, according to court documents.
Prosecutors allege that Armando Barron used her cellphone to lure her co-worker, 25-year-old Jonathan Amerault, to a park just north of the Massachusetts state line one night in September 2020. There, he violently assaulted Amerault and tried to force his wife to shoot him, prosecutors allege. She refused. He also forced her to stand on his neck and slit his wrists, they said. Armando Barron eventually forced Amerault into the back of the victim's car, prosecutors said.
"Jonathan begged for his life," prosecutors said in a court document.
Armando Barron allegedly shot Amerault three times in the car, police said. He's pleaded not guilty and could face life in prison without parole if convicted.
Britany Barron told police she was then forced to drive Amerault's car, containing his body, for several hours to a campsite in northern New Hampshire, while her husband drove another vehicle. There, Armando Barron allegedly forced his wife to cut off Amerault's head and bury it, and wrap the body in a tarp. He left her to dispose of the body and returned home, according to court documents.
Prosecutors alleged that before that had happened, Barron had beaten and threatened his wife by shoving a gun into her mouth. Police said she had bruises around her eyes and to her nose, marks on her neck, and a chipped tooth.
Britany Barron pleaded guilty last year to three counts of falsifying evidence and was released from jail on parole last month. She plans to testify against her husband and apologized to Amerault's family during her sentencing.
The Associated Press had not been naming the couple in order not to identify Britany Barron, who said she suffered extreme abuse. Through her lawyer, she recently agreed to the use of her name.
During opening statements, Taggart-Hampton said it was Britany Barron who killed Amerault. She said the evidence that will be presented in the trial will contradict Britany Barron's statements.
"Britany and Britany alone stood on Jonathan Amerault's neck, slashed his wrists and ultimately shot him multiple times, resulting in his death," she said.
Britany Barron told police around the time she was arrested that her husband, while going through her phone, discovered she was having an "extramarital affair" with Amerault, according to the affidavit. But attorneys said Tuesday it was a flirtatious relationship that was mostly carried out through texts and social media.
"All he did was respond to her text messages for eight days, during the last 10 days of his life," Justine Amerault, Jonathan's mother, said in an email to the AP. She testified Tuesday that he had told her he had met Britany Barron, that she was in abusive relationship, and that "she was done." A good friend of Amerault's testified that some of the texts "were a little graphic."
Amerault, an engineer at the biomedical device company in Jaffrey where Britany Barron also worked, was an avid hiker who had summitted all but one of the 67 mountains in northern New England that are at least 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) in elevation.
He had received honors for his volunteer work at the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley in Milford, New Hampshire, that he had attended in his youth, and later became a camp counselor. A granite bench in his memory was dedicated at the club.
Amerault had led the creation of a "Be Great" mural that hangs over the entrance.
"Throughout his life Jonathan was surrounded by hundreds of the most wholesome good people ... coworkers, friends and family," his mother wrote, adding, "it's beyond comprehension that such a beautiful young man should die in the presence of two such filthy, evil creatures."
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