After two days of deliberations, a California jury has sentenced 55-year-old Michael Barbarto death for the brutal killings of his wife Maysam and her 6-year-old daughter Tamara, who Barbar thought was his child until a paternity test proved otherwise.
Michael Barbar had no visible emotional reaction as the decision was read — he simply stared forward and seemed to take his fate in stride. Barbar’s formal sentencing hearing will take place on November 16, 2012. At that time, Judge Edward Webster is expected to take the jury’s recommendation and order Barbar to death row.
Jurors began their deliberations on Wednesday after powerful closing arguments. Prosecutor John Aki juxtaposed photos of the victims smiling in life with macabre crime scene shots of their bodies bloodied and dead. Aki followed that presentation with closed-circuit surveillance footage of Barbar playing slot machines at the Morongo casino later that night. “Does this look like a man who is remorseful,” Aki asked tartly.
The prosecutor told the jury to imagine the last thoughts of six-year-old Tamara as his father bludgeoned her head against the bedpost. “Imagine her last moments,” Aki told the panel. “‘Daddy, please don’t. Stop!’ Unconditional love looking back at you, and you continue with your murderous plan. Tells you a lot about this man.”
Defense attorney Aimee Vierra characterized her client as a regretful, loving father thrust into a spiraling depression by his wife’s infidelity and the revelation that the daughter he raised was not his. Having called a parade of relatives – including his surviving daughter Tarah – to speak about Barbar’s peacefulness and good character, Vierra pleaded with jurors to spare the man’s life. “He was a good kid, nothing negative in his background. It took a perfect storm for these murders to happen, and Michael just cracked,” she told the court.