Footprint and DNA analysis presented at Armando Barron murder trial.

  • Armando Barron is led out of the courtroom following the first day of his trial at Cheshire County Superior Court. AP

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 5/24/2022 6:14:31 PM

When a Jaffrey police officer knocked on Armando Barron’s door one night in September 2020 to ask about his missing wife, Barron claimed he’d dropped her off at a trailhead outside Peterborough around 2 a.m. the previous day.

“She said that she had friends coming by,” Barron told Officer Robert Fetzner on Monday, Sept. 21, adding that he didn’t know Britany Barron’s current whereabouts, according to a recording played in court Tuesday.

But prosecutors say Barron knew exactly where his wife was — a remote campsite in the North Country where, she testified last week, Armando Barron stranded her with instructions to destroy evidence of a murder she had just seen him commit.

Armando Barron, 32, is being tried in Cheshire County Superior Court for first-degree murder and other charges related to the September 2020 killing of Jonathan Amerault, 25, of Keene. Barron has admitted to some assault charges but denies murdering Amerault. His attorneys allege it was Britany Barron, 33, who fatally shot Amerault, which she denies.

On Tuesday, the fifth day of trial, jurors heard from a series of law-enforcement witnesses who analyzed forensic evidence or interacted with Armando Barron in the days after Amerault’s killing.

With detailed and often technical testimony — including descriptions of footprint analysis, DNA testing and accessing data stored on phones — prosecutors sought to corroborate aspects of the account Britany Barron, a key witness for the state, gave in court last week.

Britany Barron testified last Wednesday that when her husband — who knew she wanted a divorce — discovered flirtatious messages between her and Amerault on Sept. 19, 2020, he brutally attacked her, then drove her to Annett Wayside Park in Rindge and used her Snapchat account to lure Amerault there.

She said Armando Barron beat Amerault, stomped on his face and shot him three times with a Taurus handgun. Britany Barron said her husband then ordered her to drive Amerault’s car north while he followed in another vehicle.

Britany Barron previously pleaded guilty to three charges of falsifying physical evidence for her actions at the campsite in a wooded area north of Errol. She testified last week that she removed Amerault’s head from his body, dragged his corpse into the woods and helped conceal his car on orders from her husband, fearing for her life.

In court Tuesday, Emily Rice, a criminalist at the N.H. State Police Forensic Lab, described bruising on Amerault’s forehead and his left cheek left by footwear.

“It requires substantial force to cause an injury like that,” she said.

Rice said her analysis showed the bruising could have been made by a pair of blue Nike sneakers seized from the Barrons’ home. Britany Barron testified last week that Armando Barron was wearing Nike shoes the night of Amerault’s killing.

Another criminalist in the state lab, Katie Swango, testified that Amerault’s blood was found on those shoes, as well as a Taurus handgun that prosecutors say was the murder weapon, a multi-purpose knife, a knife with a serrated blade and a hacksaw. Britany Barron’s blood was found on a tank top she wore that night, and Amerault’s DNA was found on her slippers, Swango said.

During her cross-examination, defense attorney Morgan Taggart-Hampton noted that Swango did not find Armando Barron’s DNA on any of those objects.

“So across all of the items that you tested from this investigation, Armando Barron was not a possible contributor of the DNA?” Taggart-Hampton asked.

“That’s correct,” Swango said.

State Trooper Matthew Anderson testified about gun-store receipts showing Armando Barron had bought a Taurus handgun and another firearm in 2018. State Police Sgt. Tamara Hester described messages from Britany Barron’s Snapchat account to Amerault the night he was killed, which referenced Annett Wayside Park and said where he should go.

Fetzner, a part-time officer in Jaffrey, said he stopped by the Barrons’ home on Main Street in Jaffrey that Monday night as part of what was then a missing-persons investigation, as neither Britany Barron nor Amerault had shown up to work.

In addition to telling Fetzner he last saw Britany Barron when dropping her off at the Pack Monadnock trailhead on Route 101 in the early-morning hours of Sunday, Armando Barron said he had spoken to her on the phone several hours earlier and she was fine, according to the recording.

The following evening, an investigator with State Police, Sgt. Stephen Sloper, learned law enforcement had located Britany Barron in the North Country and troopers were interviewing her.

Sloper, now a lieutenant, testified Tuesday that he contacted Armando Barron to see if he would sit for an interview, telling Barron that he was trying to help locate his wife.

“Any time I pressed him for coming in and sitting down and talking with me, he would come up with” reasons not to, Sloper said. “It was a lot of deflecting, and with that deflecting, he was angry.”

Barron ultimately agreed to come to the Jaffrey police station, saying he was driving north with his daughter to go camping and it would take about two hours to return, according to Sloper.

Sloper said that once he learned what Britany Barron had told investigators, he began pinging Armando Barron’s phone’s location, which showed he was not heading back toward Jaffrey, but was north of Berlin and continuing in that direction. A state trooper ultimately spotted his vehicle and arrested him.

Prosecutors say they expect to wrap up their case Wednesday with three or four final witnesses.

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