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Friday, November 7, 2003

[FL] Ex-Officer Barnicoat gets life for murdering frightened ex-wife Laurie

...The couple divorced in June 2002. Three months before then, Laurie Barnicoat wrote a letter to a judge asking that her husband be ordered to stay away because she was afraid for her life and her two daughters...

FORMER OFFICER CONVICTED OF KILLING EX-WIFE AT PANHANDLE DAY CARE

Associated Press
Posted on Thu, Nov. 06, 2003

SHALIMAR, Fla. - A former Fort Walton Beach police officer will receive a mandatory prison sentence of life without parole for fatally shooting his ex-wife outside a day care center as she dropped off their 3-year-old daughter if his murder conviction stands.

A seven-man, five-woman jury took just more than two hours Wednesday to find Ronald Barnicoat guilty of premeditated first-degree murder. Barnicoat, 43, of Niceville, remained calm as the verdict was read and thanked the jury for its deliberation.

Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty so life will be the only sentence possible. Circuit Judge G. Robert Barron was ready to sentence Barnicoat immediately, but ordered a delay until Dec. 15 to give his lawyer time to submit a written motion for a new trial.

Assistant Public Defender Bruce Koran had argued the killing was a crime of rage, not premeditated. He said his client should have been convicted of second-degree murder, punishable by 20 years to life but with parole possible.

Several children in a nearby van witnessed the April 7 shooting, but did not testify. Barnicoat told jurors he went to the La Petite Academy in the nearby Bluewater Bay community to ask his former wife about a photo her cousin had taken of his van, not to kill her.

He acknowledged, however, that he was angry because he was afraid Laurie Barnicoat, 40, wanted to take their two daughters, Summer, 3, and Audra, 9, away from him.

"I just went berserk. Something snapped," Barnicoat testified. "I went into some kind of rage. I don't remember a lot after that."

Jurors, however, decided he knew exactly what he was doing from when he followed the victim from his home until he fired two shots.

The cousin, Gail Beasley, was with her and Summer when she was shot.

"It's a relief," Beasley said after the verdict. "It's the best possible outcome. I'm glad it's all behind me."

The couple divorced in June 2002. Three months before then, Laurie Barnicoat wrote a letter to a judge asking that her husband be ordered to stay away because she was afraid for her life and her two daughters, police said.

Ten days before the letter, Ronald Barnicoat had been taken into custody under the state's Baker Act that lets authorities apprehend a mentally unstable person. He had waved a knife outside his psychiatrist's office and told police to "just shoot me," according to a police report.

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