Masks and perspex separated attendees in the West Courtroom of the Grayson County Courthouse Tuesday in the state case against Timothy Barnum, charged with the murder of Robert Allen on Halloween 2017.
The jury was socially distant in the pews, usually reserved for spectators, and the jury box was empty when Barnum’s attorney Laura Andrade announced that her client pleaded not guilty of indictment. The masks and detached attendees are part of the court’s ongoing efforts to protect everyone involved from COVID-19.
Grayson’s first assistant district attorney Kerye Ashmore and assistant district attorney Nathan Young set their case in the opening arguments. Ashmore said the state thought it could prove that Barnum, who had a child with Robert Allen’s daughter, wanted to that Allen is dead to prevent him from pressuring this daughter to testify on pending domestic violence cases against Barnum.
“Angels never overheard conspiracies that hatched in Hell,” Ashmore told the jury that many of the witnesses he would use to prove that his case was not within miles of the Grayson County Courthouse this week wanted to be. He said those witnesses would include Barnum’s father and some of Barnum’s past love interests.
Ashmore said Barnum’s father would be the key, as a bullet removed from the father’s car after Barnum shot him matched the cartridge case found at Allen Plumbing in 2017 and pulled the bullet out of Robert Allen has been. Ashmore said the weapon belonged to Timothy Barnum.
In addition, Ashmore said there was no evidence at the scene that the crime committed that Halloween night was anything but murder. Nothing was taken out of business. Nothing was broken or damaged.
He said Robert Allen’s wallet was full of credit cards in his back pocket.
“He went to the door and he was murdered at his door,” Ashmore said, speaking from the back door of the store that was closed for everyone at the time of death.
Ashmore said Allen feared only one person and the prosecutor called Barnum crazy because Allen’s daughter recently received custody of her child, who will be conceived by Barnum. He also said Barnum’s visiting rights had been taken away, but he had still been ordered to pay child support.
Ashmore reminded the jury that under law they could find Barnum guilty of murder charges even if they found that someone else pulled the trigger at Barnum’s request. Ashmore told jurors that this person could be Barnum’s cousin Tyrone Sommers, who is also charged with murder in the case. Ashmore said the state would prove Sommers was in Denison on Halloween night 2017, dug up his cell phone near Allen Plumbing cell towers, and others would testify to see Sommers in Denison with Barnum that night.
Barnum’s defense attorney Laura Andrade agreed that the state would produce a lot of evidence during the trial. But she cautioned the jury to try to keep up with all of the evidence that has actually proven that they would hear about a lot of the things their client allegedly did and that they may not agree or like a lot of it. But the only indictment he’s facing this week is the indictment.
She said the police spent months investigating Allen’s death before finding a suspect, and when they picked Barnum they ran with it, “and they won’t stop until they get him for it.”
Andrade said most of the witnesses they would hear from on the case either changed their testimony over time or had a reason to lie. She said she knew the jury would feel bad for the Allen family over Robert Allen’s death, but finding the wrong person guilty of killing him would not 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 began against my client. Today is the day it ends.” She also said those investigating the case “stopped at nothing to fit the narrative (that Barnum killed Allen)”.
The first witness of the day 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 shop where he had worked with his brother for most of his life.
She testified that her husband’s habit was to hang around after hours in business to prepare for the next day and play poker to relax. When he didn’t return to her nearby house by 10 p.m., she called his cell phone, then the business phone, and then his cell phone again. When she got no answer to her calls, she got in the car and drove to the store.
Finding the back door open was worrying, she said, because they kept it locked and locked outside of business hours. She saw his empty shoes right in the door. Then she saw her husband lying bloody on the floor.
He had heart problems, she said, so at first she wasn’t sure what had happened. She turned him around and saw that his face was purple.
Juros listened as prosecutors played a replay of her desperate phone call to the 9-1-1 and explained that they found him in a puddle of blood and he wasn’t breathing.
She pointed this out to Timothy Barnum in the courtroom and told Ashmore he was the only person her husband feared. She said her fear of Barnum caused her to lock her doors for the first time in her life and let her children inside instead of letting them play outside. She said Barnum once took the child he had with their daughter and refused to bring the child back for a period and they were concerned that it might happen again.
When Andrade questioned the widow, she asked if Stacey Allen had tried to get her husband’s life insurance. Stacey Allen said she did. Then the lawyer asked if anyone would come to the back door of the store if Robert Allen would know who it was anyway without opening the door. Stacey Allen said he should have asked who it was.
Andrade asked why Robert Allen would open the door to Barnum if he feared him? Why should he open the door when he knew Barnum was waiting outside?
Stacey Allen said her husband was a man who was always ready to speak to someone about their problems.
The case continued on Tuesday afternoon in the West Courtroom, presided over by Judge Jim Fallon.