Britany Barron, the Jaffrey woman accused of falsifying evidence in connection with the murder of Keene resident Jonathan Amerault last fall, will remain behind bars after a judge denied her request for bail Monday.
Coos County Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein ruled during a bail hearing that Barron should remain incarcerated pending trial, saying she poses a threat to the community.
Britany Barron, 31, faces three counts of falsifying evidence. Her husband, Armando Barron, 31, has been charged with murdering Amerault, 25.
Britany Barron told police that after Armando fatally shot Amerault, she decapitated him and attempted to hide his body on her husband’s orders, according to an affidavit written by Sgt. Stephen Sloper of N.H. State Police.
Britany Barron has been in jail since late September, when N.H. Fish and Game officers discovered her at a camp in an unincorporated area of Coos County, with Amerault’s body and vehicle close by, according to Sloper’s affidavit. Her husband was arrested a day later in Jaffrey.
Britany Barron told police that her husband severely beat her after he discovered she’d been romantically involved with Amerault, who was her coworker, according to the affidavit. She said her husband then lured Amerault to Annett Wayside Park in Rindge, where Armando Barron tried to force her to shoot Amerault, then did it himself when she refused, according to the affidavit.
Armando Barron has denied his wife’s allegations.
Britany Barron said she and Armando Barron drove two vehicles — their own and Amerault’s — and took Amerault’s body from Rindge to Coos County, where they set up a camp and proceeded to get rid of evidence, according to the affidavit.
In arguing for Britany Barron to remain incarcerated, Assistant Attorney General Scott Chase said that while she and her husband were in separate vehicles after Amerault was shot, she had both a cellphone and a loaded gun, but did not take action to stop her husband’s efforts to evade police or report him to authorities herself. He also said that when she was eventually taken into custody, she wasn’t immediately cooperative.
“Every time she was presented with an opportunity, she made an unlawful choice to further Jonathan’s murder, to conceal and destroy evidence and to ensure that a murderer walked free,” Chase said during Monday’s hearing. “The steps that Britany took, the extremes that she was willing to go to to avoid prosecution, is beyond shocking.”
Chase said Britany Barron told police that Amerault was still alive in his car when she and her husband stopped at their Jaffrey home after the shooting to pack supplies before heading north. Chase said she did not seek help for him then.
Chase said he recognizes that Britany Barron was also a victim — a separate case accusing her husband of assaulting her is pending — but said that duress isn’t a valid defense if she had better, more lawful choices. He said her actions show she poses an “extreme danger” to the public.
However, Britany Barron’s defense attorney, Richard Guerriero, said his client has a strong duress defense and that victims of domestic violence often act in ways that are different from how they’d normally behave.
He urged the judge to think about her actions in the context of what her husband is accused of doing to her before Amerault’s murder, and pointed to guidance from the N.H. Attorney General’s Office on cases involving victims of domestic violence.
“To the extent that the state faults Ms. Barron for her conduct and for any of her statements, beyond the duress she was under, beyond the threat to her life and everything else, her behavior pretty much exactly matches what the AG describes ... as the stereotypical behavior of a victim of domestic violence,” Guerriero said.
Britany Barron said her husband assaulted her and put a gun in her mouth in front of their young child and that he continued to beat her while they were on their way to meet Amerault, according to the affidavit. Her mug shot shows her with a pair of black eyes, including one with a broken blood vessel, and other photos from the investigation show significant bruising on other parts of her body.
Guerriero said he was open to electronic monitoring, home confinement and other release conditions to ensure that Britany Barron would return to future court hearings and stay out of trouble. He said she’s already spent significant time behind bars, given the charges she faces.
“Ms. Barron has now been in jail for five months,” he said. “She has not been charged with murder, she has not been charged with any other crime, and is essentially being punished right now by having to sit in jail.”
He added that with a trial not expected until the fall, she’ll have been incarcerated for about a year before her case is heard. Earlier this month, Guerriero said waiting that long would result in a longer stint in jail than the sentence she’d receive if convicted.
Prior to his ruling, Bornstein said he felt prosecutors had shown that, if released, Britany Barron would be a threat to the community. He added that being a victim and posing a danger to others are not mutually exclusive.
“I agree with the state’s characterization that her dangerousness is demonstrated by the series of decisions that she made over a considerable period of time and over considerable distances,” the judge said, “to destroy evidence and not make legitimate alternative choices that the state identified.”