Man convicted of 1st-degree murder in beheading case

This 2020 booking photo provided by the Cheshire County Department of Corrections shows Armando Barron. Barron faces trial Monday May 16, 2022 in Keene, N.H. on charges of killing his wife's male co-worker after he discovered they were texting, and then forcing her to behead him after she drove with the body for 200 miles to a remote campsite. The Associated Press had not been naming the couple in order not to identify Britany Barron, who said she suffered extreme abuse. Through her lawyer, she recently agreed to the use of her name. (Cheshire County Department of Corrections via AP) (Cheshire County Department of Corrections)

CONCORD, N.H. – A jury on Thursday convicted a New Hampshire man of first-degree murder for killing his wife’s coworker after he discovered they were texting, and then forcing her to behead him.

Armando Barron also was convicted of assaulting his wife, Britany Barron, the night he discovered she had been texting with her coworker, Jonathan Amerault. Prosecutors said he used her cellphone to lure him to a park just north of the Massachusetts state line in September 2020. Barron also was convicted of beating and kicking Amerault, forcing him into his own car and shooting him.

Amerault’s mother was in the courtroom and started crying as the verdict was read.

The jury had the case for a little under two hours before the verdict.

In closing arguments, Barron’s lawyer said Britany’s testimony was contradicted by physical evidence and she had a motive to lie, while a prosecutor said she told the truth and had feared for her life.

Barron had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping and other charges. His lawyers argue that his wife shot Amerault, which she denies.

His lawyer, Meredith Lugo, said the “primary example” of Britany’s testimony not being supported by the evidence was her description of how Armando shot that last bullet in the hatchback vehicle. She said he was turned around in the passenger’s seat, with Amerault in the back and his head up against the door of the hatchback.

Lugo said the shot couldn’t have been inflicted that way, noting that the state’s chief medical examiner testified the bullet was fired at close range.

“If Britany isn’t being honest with you about that, what else isn’t she telling you?” Lugo said.

Prosecutor Benjamin Agati said that Amerault died trying to save himself, moving toward Armando as the shot was fired. He had tried to protect himself when a prior bullet went through his arm and had other defensive wounds on his arms and hands. His feet were close to a machete that was on the floor, and to the car door handles.

“To believe that during that shooting that Jonathan just sat there is not reasonable,” Agati said.

Britany testified that after Amerault was shot, she was forced to drive the car 200 miles (322 kilometers) north to a remote campsite, with Armando driving right behind her and talking to her on the phone most of the way. There, she said, she was forced to behead Amerault. Her husband eventually left her at the site, telling her to dispose of the body, she testified.

Lugo said Britany is “very capable of lying when she wants to,” noting that when she was approached at the campsite by state Fish and Game Department officers, she told them she was there “clearing her head” following a fight with a girlfriend at a party.

Eventually, the officers noticed something covered by a tarp that turned out to be Amerault’s car. She was detained and brought to police.

“But of course she cooperated at that point,” Lugo said. “She had a story she was selling and she needed them to believe it,” framing herself as the victim.

Agati said the balance that Britany must have had to make, “believing that her own life was forfeit, juxtaposed with her need to get back home to the girls that she had almost literally been dragged away from, the relationship she had been in for 14 years of marriage,” should be considered by the jurors.

Britany Barron pleaded guilty last year to three counts of falsifying evidence and was released from jail on parole last month.

The Associated Press had not been naming the couple in order not to identify Britany Barron, who said she suffered extreme abuse. Through her lawyer, she recently agreed to the use of her name.