Harrison Co. judge sends student murder case to grand jury

Published 4:53 pm Friday, March 2, 2007

A Harrison County judge has ruled there is sufficient evidence for a grand jury to consider an indictment against an 18-year-old Gulfport man charged with killing a Gulfport High School student.

Judge Albert Fountain on Wednesday also denied a motion from attorneys for Johnathan Barfield to dismiss the murder charge on grounds investigators did not prove Barfield had a gun in his hand when Tiffany Talley was shot and killed Dec. 27.

Harrison County sheriff’s deputies found Talley, a captain of the school girl’s basketball team, shot to death inside Barfield’s FEMA trailer in Gulfport. Barfield, who was being held on a $1 million bond, is charged with murder.

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According to court testimony from sheriff’s investigator Edward Dawson, Barfield issued two contradictory statements after the shooting: He didn’t remember if the gun fell from his grasp and accidentally discharged, or if Talley bumped against him, causing the gun to go off.

Dawson said what was conclusive was that shortly after the fatal shot, Barfield called his father before calling for help.

Dawson said Talley’s body was found face down in the living room of Barfield’s FEMA trailer.

By checking cell phone records, Dawson said Talley and Barfield began talking that day at 11 a.m., and had multiple conversations until she arrived around noon.

Barfield told investigators he was on the phone with Talley when he heard someone outside his home, Dawson said. Scared for his safety, Barfield cocked the .22-caliber handgun and approached the door, Dawson said.

“How could he hold the phone, the gun and open the door?” defense attorney Todd Thriffley asked Dawson.

Dawson responded by sandwiching an invisible phone between his ear and shoulder.

“Based on the facts, it’s truly a tragic accident,” Thriffley said. “Based on the lack of evidence that he didn’t have a gun in his hand … we ask that you dismiss the case against Mr. Barfield.”

The judge said Barfield’s case would be presented to the grand jury. Barfield was returned to the county jail.