09/29/11 — Suspect says he is innocent

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Suspect says he is innocent

By Gary Popp
Published in News on September 29, 2011 1:46 PM

Steven Lynn Barbour, accused of murder, testified Wednesday that he is not responsible for the death of Jamie Lee Hinson.

Barbour, 31, is one of three charged with first-degree murder in Hinson's slaying. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Hinson, 35, was found the morning of Dec. 3, 2009, beaten to death in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery on U.S. 70 West.

Barbour is the first of three people allegedly involved to go to trial. Joseph Lanier, 23, and Barbour's girlfriend, Tara Sparks, 30, also are charged in Hinson's death.

Both Lanier and Ms. Sparks testified Tuesday.

Ms. Sparks, who was not present when Hinson died, signed a plea deal with the state to provide her account of the details surrounding Hinson's death in exchange for a reduced sentence.

The defendant and Lanier are each claiming that it is the other who killed Hinson.

Barbour and Lanier both testified that the three men were in the cemetery in the early hours of Dec. 3 and that a fight ensued, but both men say it was the other that swung the metal, police-style baton that crushed Hinson's skull and stabbed a small pocket knife into his throat.

Barbour said he came to Hinson's aid as Lanier was beating him.

Like Lanier, Barbour told the court that they had picked up Hinson from his home on Dec. 2 and that the three men went to The Playground, a gentlemen's club, on William Street in Goldsboro.

The two testimonies included Barbour and Lanier, both Saulston Volunteer firefighters, leaving Hinson at the nightclub on two occasions to respond to fire calls.

Barbour said the three men left the nightclub about 2 a.m. in his pickup, and as they were driving on U.S. 70 West, an argument broke out that resulted in Hinson, who was seated in the back of the truck's cab, forcefully punching Barbour in the back of the head.

Dazed and confused, Barbour said he pulled off U.S. 70 onto the first road he could find, which was a driveway that led to the cemetery. All three men then got out of the truck, he said, and a fight started.

He said he hit Hinson, and the two squared off to fight. At this time, Barbour said, Lanier warned him that Hinson was carrying a knife.

While he yelled this warning, Barbour claimed, Lanier was "overhand swinging" the metal baton.

"He hit Jamie in the back of the head, and Jamie frantically ran into me and knocked me down," Barbour said.

Barbour said Hinson kept running and Lanier chased him farther into the cemetery.

He said he then got back into his truck and tried to drive closer to where the men had run. He said moments later he got out of the truck and ran to where Lanier was standing over Hinson.

"(Lanier) was in mid-swing," Barbour said. "I grabbed him with both arms and, with some force, pushed him away."

Barbour said that he was in disbelief at Lanier's assault on Hinson.

"I said to (Lanier), 'What are you doing? He is already down,'" Barbour said.

Barbour said he glanced at Hinson, who was lying on the ground, as he ran back to the vehicle.

He said Hinson was trying to speak and he appeared to have suffered only a broken nose.

Barbour said he and Lanier then got into his truck and drove back to the Lanier home in Goldsboro, where he and Ms. Sparks also lived.

Once home, Barbour said, he was preparing to take a shower when he noticed the baseball cap he was wearing was no longer on his head. He said Lanier offered to go back to the graveyard to try to find the cap.

Barbour said he and Ms. Sparks were woken up the next morning by Lanier coming up the stairs of the home where they slept.

"He burst into the room and said, 'Did you all hear that? He is dead. I killed that (expletive),'" Barbour said.

Barbour said Lanier had heard over his dispatch radio that a body had been found in the cemetery.

Barbour also said Lanier claimed he tried to cut Hinson's throat when he returned to retrieve his hat, but the blade was too dull.

Barbour said over the next few days Lanier threatened both Ms. Sparks and himself if they told the authorities what he had done.

Testimony was scheduled to resume this morning at 9 a.m.