ITHACA (WENY) -- The Ithaca man accused of shooting and running over a seasonal UPS driver at the Ithaca Walmart in December 2016 has pleaded guilty, just days before opening statements in his murder trial were set to begin.
According to the Tompkins County District Attorney's office, 39-year-old Justin Barkley pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to 1st Degree Manslaughter, and Menacing a Police Officer. He was initially charged with Second Degree Murder, along with the menacing charge. Barkley's guilty plea to the lesser charges came as a surprise; jury selection had wrapped up in the murder trial just earlier that day. Opening statements were set to begin Tuesday afternoon.
District Attorney Matthew Van Houten says Barkley admitted to intentionally causing the death of William Schumacher on December 8, 2016 at the Ithaca Walmart. Barkley shot Schumacher, then ran over his body in the parking lot. He later fired his rifle in the direction of police during an armed standoff at Barkley's home in the town of Dryden.
As part of the plea agreement, Barkley will spend 25 years in state prison for the Manslaughter charge, and eight years for the Menacing charge. He's also waived his right to an appeal.
In a statement issued from the DA's office, Van Houten states in part, "We have to recognize that the defendant's mental health played a major role in what took place. The acknowledgment by the defendant that he acted intentionally, together with the extensive investigation we conducted, including a full psychiatric evaluation by our own expert, support the conclusion that the defendant was suffering from what New York State law recognizes as an extreme emotional disturbance. We would not have permitted the defendant to plead guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree without a guarantee that he would receive the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison."
Barkley remains in the Tompkins County jail, where he will be held until sentencing. That is scheduled for February 13th, 2018.