Allen Plumbing Halloween 2017 murder trial begins with opening statements
Masks and plexiglass separated the participants in the west courtroom at the Grayson County Courthouse Tuesday as the state's case against Timothy Barnum who has been charged with murder in the 2017 Halloween killing of Robert Allen.
Jurors sat socially distanced in the pews that are normally reserved for spectators and the jury box sat empty as Barnum's attorney Laura Andrade announced that her client was pleading not guilty to the charge. The masks and distanced participants are part of the court's ongoing efforts to protect everyoneinvolved from COVID-19.
First Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Kerye Ashmore and assistant District Attorney Nathan Young laid out their case in opening arguments. Ashmore said the state thinks it can prove that Barnum, who had a child with Robert Allen's daughter, wanted Allen dead to keep him from pressuring that daughter to testify against Barnum in pending domestic violence cases.
"Conspiracies hatched in hell are never overheard by angels," Ashmore told the jury in explaining that many of the witnesses he would present to them to prove his case didn't want to be within miles of the Grayson County Courthouse this week. He said those witnesses would include Barnum's father and several of Barnum's previous love interests.
Ashmore said Barnum's father would be key because a bullet removed from the father's car after Barnum shot him matched the shell casing found at the scene at Allen Plumbing in 2017 and the bullet pulled out of Robert Allen. Ashmore said that gun belonged to Timothy Barnum.
Further, Ashmore said there was no evidence at the scene that the crime committed that Halloween night was anything other than a murder. Nothing was taken from the business. Nothing was broken or damaged.
He said Robert Allen's wallet was in his back pocket full of credit cards.
"He went to the door and at his door, he was murdered," Ashmore said speaking of the back door to the business which was closed at the time that Allen was killed.
Ashmore said Allen only feared one person and who the prosecutor said was Barnum who was mad because Allen's daughter had recently gotten full custody of her child that is fathered by Barnum. He also said Barnum's visitation rights had been taken away, but he still had been ordered to pay child support.
Ashmore reminded the jury that under the law, they could find Barnum guilty of the murder charge even if they found that someone else pulled the trigger at Barnum's request. Ashmore told jurors that person could be Barnum's cousin Tyrone Sommers who is also charged with murder in the case. Ashmore said the state will prove that Sommers was in Denison on Halloween night in 2017, his cell phone was digging off cell towers near Allen Plumbing, and others would testify to seeing Sommers in Denison with Barnum that night.
Barnum's defense Attorney Laura Andrade agreed that the state was going to present a lot of evidence during the trial. But she cautioned the jury to try to keep up with what all of that evidence actually proved saying they would hear about a lot of stuff her client was alleged to have done and they might not agree or like a lot of it. But, the only charge he faces this week is for charge.
She said police investigated Allen's death for months before coming up with a suspect, and when they settled on Barnum, they ran with it "and they aren't going to stop until they get him for it."
Andrade said that most of the witnesses they would hear from in the case have either changed their statements over time or have a reason to lie. She said she knew the jurors were going to feel bad for the Allen family because of Robert Allen's death, but finding the wrong person guilty of killing him wouldn't take away their pain or suffering.
She said October 31,2017 was a bad day for the Allen family and "it was the day a witch hunt started against my client. Today is the day it stops." She also said that those investigating the case "stopped at nothing to make narrative (that Barnum killed Allen) fit."
The day's first witness was Stacey Allen who had been married to Robert Allen for just over 32 years when she found him in a pool of blood in the business where he worked with his brother for most of his life.
She testified that it was her husband's habit to remain at the business after hours to get ready for the next day and to play poker to unwind. When he had not returned to their nearby home by 10 p.m, she said, she called first his cell and then the business phone and then his cell again. Getting no answers to her calls, she said, she got in the car and drove to the business.
Finding the back door open was disturbing, she said, because they kept it closed and locked after business hours. She saw his empty shoes just inside the door. Then she saw her husband on the floor in blood.
He had heart problems, she said, so at first she was not sure what had happened. She turned him over and saw his face was purple.
Juros listened as prosecutors played a recording of her frantic phone call to 9-1-1 explaining that she had found him in a puddle of blood and he was not breathing.
She pointed out Timothy Barnum in the courtroom and told Ashmore he was the only person her husband feared. She said their fear of Barnum had caused them to start locking their doors for the first time in their lives and keeping their children inside instead of letting them play outside. She said Barnum had once taken the child he had with their daughter and refused to bring the child back for a period of time and they were concerned that could happen again.
When Andrade questioned the widow, she asked if Stacey Allen had attempted to collect on a life insurance policy her husband had. Stacey Allen said she had done so. Then the attorney asked if someone came to the back door of the business would Robert Allen have anyway of knowing who it was without opening the door. Stacey Allen said he would have had to ask who it was.
Andrade asked why Robert Allen would open the door for Barnum if he feared him so?, why would he open the door if he knew Barnum waited outside?
Stacey Allen said her husband was the kind of man who was always willing to talk to someone about their problems.
The case continued Tuesday afternoon in the west courtroom with Judge Jim Fallon presiding.