Baldwin County sheriff discusses investigation of 76-year-old woman's slaying
MILLEDGEVILLE — The son of a 76-year-old woman who was found brutally stabbed to death in her Lake Sinclair home earlier this month was charged with murder Tuesday.
Steven Barrett, 57, also has been charged with two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee said. Authorities found two of Sandra Brantley Barrett's 5-year-old dogs, Bella and Sunny, fatally stabbed in the woman's kitchen.
"It's an unusual crime scene. ... You don't work too many crime scenes where you go in and not only is an individual killed in her home but also two pets, two animals that were killed in the same manner as the human victim," the sheriff said.
Steven Barrett is being held without bond at the Baldwin County jail. He was taken into custody March 16, the same day his mother was killed.
Sandra Barrett was retired as manager of the Central State Hospital Credit Union, where she had worked for 38 years, according to her obituary.
Steven Barrett, an only child, had a history of violence against his mother, and their relationship was "volatile," Massee said.
Massee, who had a personal relationship with the victim, said the victim "enabled (Steven Barrett) all his life, paid all his expenses. ... For the many years now he's been unemployed, I think his family has sort of let him live with them and, I'll say, off of them."
Over the years, the sheriff's office has responded to numerous domestic violence calls and other issues involving the mother and son at their Bill Johnson Road home.
"I was not surprised when we got the call," Massee said, recalling that the domestic issues there date back to the 1990s.
"I've got so much interaction with this family that it was almost like a family death," the sheriff said. "It's very personal, especially when you watch issues build up over the years and you truly worry about someone's safety."
On Jan. 6, Steven Barrett was arrested at the home and on a family violence charge after he reportedly shoved his mother and took her house keys, according to a sheriff's office incident report. Authorities had been to the house earlier that same day after Steven Barrett got into a verbal altercation with a neighbor, the report said. A deputy noted that drugs and alcohol were believed to be a factor in the assault.
On Jan. 20, a restraining order was issued against him in State Court, prohibiting him from contacting his mother or going to her home, Massee said.
Sandra Barrett told a deputy that "Steve had been out of control all day, yelling and cursing at her," the Jan. 6 report said. "This evening he shoved her then cornered her in the bedroom, causing her to fear for what he was going to do to her. ... Sandra said she just didn't know what to do anymore."
Records show the Jan. 20 restraining order also prohibited Steven Barrett from contacting or being around a couple who lived next door to his mother.
The neighbor, who asked not to be identified for this story, said Steven Barrett tried to physically attack him that day. A couple of weeks after Barrett was released from jail, the neighbor said he called Baldwin County Solicitor General Maxine Blackwell to share his suspicion that Steven Barrett was back at his mother's house.
Blackwell said she remembered getting a call from the neighbor in February, but she said there was little she could do to intervene in this case.
"We do not have the right to go to a victim's home and enter it without the victim's request or permission except in very rare circumstances," Blackwell said. "It's impossible for law enforcement to enforce a restraining order between a mother and son when neither of them wants to stay away from the other ... and is insistent that they be allowed to see each other."
To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4334 and follow her on Twitter @Lauraecor.