TB: My opinion is "no." What it was, was an annoyance to the cops. The case is what's important and it doesn't matter who the victim is. These guys, they never let up, and I don't really think that the pressure had anything to do with it. The investigators would do the same. In addition, they were very certain the family's adviser-investigator was barking up the wrong tree with his theories.
JJ: Did you finally discover that he was actually hired?
TB: I talked to him a couple times, and he wouldn't tell me, but he did indicate that some expenses were paid. Other than that, I don't know. He was, the whole time, trying to pitch this story to 48 Hours or one of those TV magazines. I honestly don't think all that affected the homicide team; they just do their job anyway.
JJ: Was your wife very happy to see you retire?
TB: Yeah, because now when she comes home, dinner is on the table, and I made it.
JJ: Does she work too?
TB: Yeah, she works for the District Attorney's office. She has a degree in criminal justice.
JJ: After years of dead ends, Team Three catches a break. Someone tells someone who calls with a tip.
TB: Yeah. David Stevens worked for a matchmaking company, and the eventual codefendant worked for him, but nobody at that company knew they ever spoke except about work. But they had an attraction, and they did go out socially one time. Keep in mind, [Stevens] was 38 years old, and she had just turned 18. And so they went to his apartment, and they had a sexual encounter. She left there afterward and drove home, and her married boyfriend, this Ronald Barker, was waiting. He was a control freak. He demanded to know where she'd been. She tried to lie but didn't do a very good job. She gave it up. And he said, "All right, you're unclean and the only way you're going to be cleansed of your sin is that I'm going to kill Stevens, and you're going to help me." And that's what they did. They lured him out of his apartment and into his automobile, and Barker shot him in the head.
JJ: What finally broke the case after three years?
TB: Ronald Barker became so possessive, he started beating her. Barker even told his wife that they had killed somebody, and his wife told his girlfriend -- Ny Nourn. If his wife knew, then Nourn figured it was over, and she wanted the beatings to stop anyway. She feared Barker more than prison. And that's why she had a friend call the police and give it up.
JJ: And the wife actually urged the girlfriend not to break off with her husband?
TB: That's correct. She [the wife] said, "He seems more calm and relaxed when he has a girlfriend on the side." She wanted the extramarital relationship to continue.
JJ: You said the homicide detectives probably wouldn't have arrested Barker for outstanding warrants: a fraud and an illegal driver's license. Is it simply that they're not interested in fraud?
TB: There are so damn many warrants out there, thousands of outstanding warrants, that it's the job of the sheriff's department to go out and track these guys down. If the cops had suspected Barker of homicide, they would have used the warrants to bag him. But as far as homicide detectives just arresting a guy they come across on outstanding warrants, they wouldn't.
JJ: Another thing that surprised me was that Mark Carlos, one of the attorneys in the case, is notified that a contract has been taken out on his life, issued from prison. He's notified by the city that, since he isn't a witness for the prosecution, the D.A.'s office would not provide protection for him. As a result, Attorney Carlos withdraws from the case. I was amazed that there was no provision made for protecting an officer of the court in that situation. He was left to fend for himself.
TB: Well, okay, that would have been up to the local police. Also, the D.A.'s office had intercepted the contract.
JJ: The threatened attorney uses his grateful incarcerated clients to sort of take care of matters privately for him and discourage any action against him. But this is strictly private. I was just surprised that law enforcement officially didn't protect the attorney in such a situation. Isn't this a kind of tampering with the judicial process?
TB: I don't know. Maybe. I certainly don't see it that way. I mean, you know a hit was attempted, it was thwarted by the D.A., and this guy was told, "Hey, you may be a target, so protect yourself." Holy Christ, we'd be protecting people all the time. That's what executive protection PIs are for. You may be surprised at that, but that is what the reality is.
JJ: A death committee is convened before the indicted are brought to trial. What is a death committee?
TB: Okay, if a case qualifies as having "special circumstances"-- specific heinous elements -- then the D.A. has to decide whether to try for the death penalty -- execution -- or ask for life without parole. And so that's what the death committee decides. Attorneys from the D.A.'s office convene and discuss the case and vote whether they think they can ask for death or not.
JJ: I've never seen what occurs in this case. Since there are two codefendants in the trial, provision is made for two juries to sit in the courtroom, one for each defendant.
TB: That happens all the time, all over the country.
JJ: So this isn't something unique to California or San Diego?
TB: No, and in fact, I've seen as many as four juries in one case, which would be 38 jurors. It's common.
JJ: Do you miss it -- police work?
TB: You know, I don't. I had a great career. I had a lot of good things happen. But you know, I'm 59 years old and to really do a good job you have to have a lot of energy. And that's why I got out of homicide. When that phone rings, sometimes you're up for 48 hours, and by the end of my term in homicide, I realized it was taking me a long time to recover. In the beginning it would take me, you know, one day. I'd just go home and sleep for 12 hours, and I'd be ready to go, but it's a tough job. So, I don't miss it that much. I really liked doing that work, but, man, it's a killer.