Friday the 13th was an unlucky day for 55-year-old Michael Barbar, who was convicted for the murders of his wife and the 6-year-old daughter he thought was his, until a paternity test revealed he was not the girl’s father. On July 30, the same jury will come back to the Riverside courtroom to determine whether Barbar’s crimes merit the death penalty.
When Barbar married his wife Maysam, she already had two daughters — Theadora and Tarah, aged 18 and 10 when the murders occurred in 2009 — and added a third daughter, Tamara, after the couple was married. But by early 2009, Barbar learned that Maysam had been engaging in trysts with men she met online — and that she even traveled to Texas to meet a lover.
Wracked with doubt about his daughter’s paternity, Barbar took his daughter out of elementary school one day in November 2009 and swabbed her cheek at a nearby McDonalds. On November 6, 2009, the DNA tests came back: confirming that Michael Barbar was not Tamara’s biological father.
On Novemeber 14, 2009, just eight days after the test results, police were called to the Barbar home in Perris, California. Theadora Khoury told police that her stepfather Michael Barbar had given her $20 the previous night and told her not to come home because he was planning a romantic night with Maysam. But when police arrived on the scene they found Maysam’s naked body handcuffed on the floor, strangled with a computer cord. 6-year-old Tamara was found in her bedroom, bloodied and mangled from at least 20 blows to the head. Her skull had been crushed by repeated slams against her bed frame.
Michael Barbar was nowhere to be found, but was immediately targeted as the prime suspect. Police discoverd that he had gone to the Morongo Casino to settle his nerves at the slots before driving a rented car into New Mexico. Investigators used cellphone signals to track Barber to a hotel in Deming, NM where he was arrested the next day. Authorities recovered bloody clothing, multiple IDs and passports, a gun, and roughly $12,000 in cash. Barbar had printed out driving directions to Maysam’s lover’s home in Texas. Prosecutors would allege that Barbar was on his way there to confront the man before fleeing the country.
Barbar’s murder trial began last month with the defense essentially conceding the facts of the case, but contending that Barbar was suffering from “an uncontrollable rage” that made him lash out with deadly results. Defense attorney Eric Keen said Barbar ended up doing “the single most regrettable thing he’s done in his life,” and would ask the jury to convict his client of involuntary manslaughter.
Prosecutor John Aki painted the jury a picture of a vicious, premeditated attack: “Maysam and Tamara had no idea they were going to be killed that night. He knew for eight days that Tamara was not his daughter.”
Barbar’s younger stepdaughter Tarah testified that she was sleeping in her bedroom when she was awoken by the violence in her young sister’s room. “She was yelling ‘No, stop, please’… they sounded like pleading cries,” she told the jury. When she got up the next day she found Tamara’s bed covered in blood, but Maysam’s bedroom was locked.
Ultimately, the jury would decide that Barbar’s crimes were premeditated — soon they will have to decide whether his actions merit his death in return.