A COP'S WIFE IS GUNNED DOWN ON THEIR FARM, BUT WHO'S RESPONSIBLE?
"48 HOURS MYSTERY" SATURDAY, OCT. 29
Jim and Vickie Barton seemed to be living out their dreams just outside Springboro, Ohio. The couple owned and lived on a horse farm. Jim was a lieutenant with the Springboro police department, with aspirations of becoming police chief, and Vickie was a head nurse at the local hospital. In April 1995, however, Jim came home from work and found Vickie had been shot to death. Vickie was well-liked by everyone, so who wanted her dead? For three years there were virtually no leads in the case and no arrests, but then in 1998 came a stunning confession from an unlikely source. Correspondent Peter Van Sant reports for 48 HOURS MYSTERY: "Scared to Death," to be broadcast Saturday, Oct. 29 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
A break in Vickie's case came when Gary Henson, a career criminal, told police -- while he was being interrogated for burglary and drug possession -- that he knew who shot Jim's wife. Henson claimed that his half-brother, Will Phelps, told him that Phelps shot Vickie by accident while he and an unidentified accomplice had planned to burglarize the Barton home. According to Henson, four months following the murder, Phelps committed suicide because he couldn't cope with the guilt of killing Vickie.
Investigators believed Henson's story because he also knew that Vickie had been bitten -- information that had not been released to the public. Phelps' body was exhumed, but his DNA did not match the DNA found on Vickie's body from the bite mark. Again, the investigation came to a standstill.
By 2003, a county-wide cold case team was formed to take a second look at Vickie's murder. Just six weeks into the investigation, the squad discovered a clue buried in the evidence. From Jim's frantic 9-1-1 call, were two-and-a-half seconds of audiotape that broke the case wide open. There was a discrepancy as to whether Jim was saying, "I gotta call Phelp, man," with Phelp referring to Henson's half-brother, or whether he was saying, "I gotta call fo' help, man." Jim claims he said the latter and that he's slurring his words together, while most investigators believed he was saying the former.
To prove their theory, the cold case investigators went to Henson, who told them that Jim was involved in Vickie's death -- something Henson never mentioned when he spoke to police five years earlier. Henson claimed that Jim, the career police officer, was responsible for his wife's murder because Jim had sent Phelps to the house to scare Vickie in hopes of driving her to live in town where Jim supposedly needed to live to become police chief. According to Henson, the plan went awry when Phelps' accomplice shot Vickie. Jim denies knowing Phelps and the entire scenario. Jim was arrested for his wife's murder. But, would Henson's story hold up in court? Would the jury believe the cop or the convict?
48 HOURS MYSTERY: "Scared to Death" is produced by Jay Young and Jamie Stolz. Anthony Batson is the senior producer and Susan Zirinsky is the executive producer.