RUSTBURG — After an intense trial, an Altavista woman was found guilty Thursday of first-degree murder in the 2016 shooting death of her husband.
That verdict followed some emotional testimony from Kimberly Mayhew Barksdale, 52, about what led up to her shooting her husband in the back of the head outside their Main Street home.
A jury recommended she spend life in prison for the shooting, but a judge will have the final say on her sentence later this year.
The shooting marked the end of tensions and arguments between the two. Barksdale had taken out two assault & battery charges and a protective order against her husband in September 2016, which later were dismissed.
When Todd Barksdale was granted temporary custody of their daughter in October, Campbell County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul McAndrews suggested Kim Barksdale’s plan to keep him away from their daughter backfired and she “wanted him dead,” which she denied in court.
Barksdale said she acted in self defense when she shot her husband that afternoon — he had shoved her when she tried to talk to him and lifted heavy rocks menacingly at her before she shot him.
She said she feared for her and her daughter’s lives, convinced her husband had been directing friends to harass and threaten them — though she couldn’t name who they were.
“He had had people sicced all over me, his buddies,” she said from the stand Wednesday.
The day before the shooting, a clerk at an Altavista gas station familiar with the couple testified to seeing Kim Barksdale storm up to her husband while he was pumping gas and yelling at him, which Barksdale also denied. When Barksdale came into the gas station afterward, the clerk said she told her, “He’d better run.”
Todd Barksdale picked his daughter up from school Nov. 18, taking her to the Altavista home so she could pick up a video game and look for her cat, according to testimony.
Recalling that day’s events via closed circuit television, their daughter said the two argued intermittently during the visit. She got into a truck with her dad when he went to repair the fence and played a game on her phone in the passenger seat when she heard a loud bang from behind her.
“I saw Kim with a gun and I saw my dad on the ground, slumped over with blood pouring outside of his head,” she said, voice wavering.
She was 12 years old at the time.
While on the stand, she referred to her mother as “Kim,” saying she started to do that when she realized “that’s not something a mom would’ve done.”
A mere few feet away from where her mother was standing with the gun, the girl fled to a neighbor’s house and said Barksdale chased her, yelling, “This was all for you.”
When law enforcement arrived at the house, the girl ran toward the sirens while deputies moved in to handcuff Barksdale.
She’s been in jail since her arrest, and has tried to handle her own case from there through stacks of handwritten letters to the court.
Barksdale’s first court- appointed attorney, Jim Childress, formally introduced a notice she would offer an insanity plea in July 2017. But Barksdale later wrote to the court she never intended to do that, and Campbell Circuit Court Judge John Cook barred evidence to that end at trial.
She made several attempts to represent herself in the three years since her arrest and spoke for herself at multiple hearings.
McAndrews, who challenged Barksdale face to face during testimony in a loud and heated exchange, said the judge denied her motions to represent herself when it became clear that she didn’t have enough understanding of the law to represent herself effectively.
During the trial, McAndrews pointed out Barksdale’s husband’s bullet wound traveled downward from behind his left ear, which would be an improbable angle if she shot at her taller husband from any front-facing angle. As shown by photos introduced as evidence, his body was bent directly over rocks he was placing to fill a hole in the fence.
Both of Barksdale’s children — her and Todd Barksdale’s daughter along with a daughter from a previous marriage — said in court their father wasn’t abusive in any way toward either them or their mother. They said Barksdale would make false accusations about her husband and would threaten him to them.
They testified to how hard life has been since their father’s death and concerns for their safety, since Barksdale has been sending them letters and calling them from jail.
In court documents, Barksdale has referred to one of her daughters as “my accuser.”
Taking the stand before the sentencing phase of the trial, Diane Hall said her brother was a “loving, caring family man” whose death has “turned our family upside down.” Correspondence Barksdale has sent while in jail, she said, has been “full of hatred.”
After the trial, McAndrews said he and the victim’s family are happy with the outcome and it was the “appropriate” verdict in this case.
“This killing was intentional, this killing was without any justification whatsoever and has left two people without a father in a tragic situation,” he said.
A hearing to finalize Barksdale’s sentence will be scheduled in March. She’s being held in jail in the meantime.