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COURT Ex-officer convicted in wife's slaying

Saturday, February 19, 2005

LEBANON, Ohio (AP) -- A former police officer accused of hiring burglars to stage a break-in that led to the fatal shooting of his wife has been convicted of complicity in her death.
Jurors deliberated for almost 16 hours over two days before finding former Springboro police Lt. James Barton guilty on Friday of three felony charges in the 1995 slaying of his first wife, Vickie Barton. He could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.
Barton, 49, was found guilty of complicity to involuntary manslaughter and two counts of complicity to aggravated burglary. He is expected to be sentenced Tuesday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.
Prosecutors said that Barton hired the burglars to break into his Franklin Township farmhouse and fire shots over his wife's head to scare her into moving to Springboro so he could become police chief. Authorities said the 40-year-old nurse was shot three times in the head. Her body was found at the couple's farmhouse about 30 miles north of Cincinnati.
Barton, who retired in January 2004 after 25 years as a police officer, said he was at work in Springboro when his wife was killed.
Barton's current wife, Elaine, and several other family members broke into loud sobs as the jurors left the courtroom.
Defense attorney John Rion said his client continues to maintain his innocence and will appeal.
William Phelps, the Middletown man Barton is accused of hiring to break into the farmhouse, committed suicide several months after the killing. A second person believed to have been with Phelps has never been identified. Phelps' half brother, Gary Henson, said Phelps told him of the plan and the shooting.