Defense attorney’s argues accidental shooting Judge keeps second-degree murder charges

  • Zackary Sherwood

ARAPAHO — A Weatherford man charged with second-degree murder was in district court for a preliminary hearing Thursday.

Zackary Otto Sherwood, 27 of Weatherford, allegedly shot Ashley Barr, 30 of Weatherford on May 11. He later was arrested and charged with second degree murder as the primary suspect in Barr’s murder. Sherwood allegedly claimed the shooting was an accident, court records show.

During the preliminary hearing Thursday in Custer County District Court, Sherwood alongside his attorneys Zack Simmons and Alison Roberts argued to lower the charges from second-degree murder to first-degree manslaughter.

Associate District Judge Donna Dirickson kept original charges of second-degree murder.

“This court believes the pointing of the gun in this manner is murder in the second-degree, it’s what the evidence shows and what the witnesses’ testimonies explained to us,” Dirickson said.

During the testimony many witnesses gave testimony as to what they witnessed May 11.

One of the individuals who gave testimony of her side of the story was a friend of Ashley, April Phares. During her testimony, she explained what she went through the day of May 11.

The friend of Barr was walking by the Best Western Hotel, Phares said she saw Ashley Barr as she walked by. Phares said when she saw Barr she decided to talk to her. After an estimated 20-minute conversation April said they decided to drive to a friend’s house. Barr went inside the hotel to try and wake up Sherwood. Barr was not able to wake up Sherwood so she left him at the hotel, according to information given by Phares.

After going to the friend’s house Barr and Phares went to Clinton and then drove back to Weatherford. While driving, Sherwood called Barr when Barr answered Phares said he was very mad about Barr taking his car. The friend said Sherwood told Ashley “I’m going to beat your a**.”

When Ashley and her friend got back to the hotel Sherwood was angry and chased Barr, according to information from the friend. The friend said she was sitting in the passenger seat of the car and watched as Sherwood pulled Barr’s hair and put his hand in a fist and threatened to hit Barr. After things had settled down between Sherwood and Barr, the Weatherford Police Department showed up at the hotel.

The friend said she hid in the bathroom away from the police because the three had been doing drugs. The friend said Sherwood talked to the police and soon left the hotel. Phares left the hotel, but went back in the evening to check on Barr. When Phares arrived at the hotel she saw caution tape at the room Barr had been staying in. She called police and they advised her of Barr’s death.

Bryan Hankins was another witness during the preliminary hearing. Hankins said he was driving by the hotel at the time of the argument between Sherwood and Barr. Hankins said he watched as Sherwood chased Barr around his car which Hankins said was a Lincoln. Hankins described Sherwood pulling Barr’s hair and holding a fist up as if he was going to hit her.

Hankins said Sherwood never hit Barr. Hankins took video of the altercation, but left the scene. As Hankins was driving off he saw a police car in front of him and flagged the car down. Hankins said he told police about the altercation and provided a license plate number of the car.

One of the police officers who made contact after the altercation was a witness during the preliminary hearing, Justin Blatnick. Blatnick was an officer in training during the incident and took lead by making contact with the subjects. Blatnick made contact with his training officer Casey Clark. Blatnick said when he made contact with Sherwood who told him everything was fine. When Blatnick talked to Barr she said there was a small argument, but nothing bad. Blatnick and Clark departed the scene.

Susan Spencer was a witness during the hearing Thursday. Later in the evening, Spencer said she used to live across from the room Sherwood and Barr were staying in. Later in the evening, Spencer said she heard a commotion outside her house. She said she heard a man yelling and about 45 seconds later she heard a pop. Minutes later Spencer looked outside to see ambulance vehicles and the fire department outside. She said the next day she was told about the death of Barr.

WPD Detective Joseph Cox gave testimony during the preliminary hearing. Cox said he had three different interviews with Sherwood about the incident May 11. Cox said Sherwood told him he was cold and Barr offered him her hoodie. Sherwood said he went to get a blanket so Barr could wear it. When Sherwood got in the bedroom he saw his gun was still loaded, he grabbed the gun and the blanket.

Cox described how Sherwood told Barr he needed to unload the gun. Sherwood claimed the gun had malfunctioned as he had it aiming upward toward the ceiling. Barr walked in front of the gun and it went off. Sherwood told Cox the gun had never malfunctioned before. Sherwood also said during the interview he and Barr had been arguing and the hotel room they were staying in was destroyed because of the argument.

During the third interview between Sherwood and Cox, Sherwood changed the story and said he destroyed the hotel room by himself while Barr was in Clinton. He told Cox he was mad because Barr took his vehicle, according to Cox’s testimony during the preliminary hearing. Cox said Sherwood throughout every interview said the incident was accidental and he meant no harm toward Barr.

Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Brian Exinia was called in for the case by WPD. Exinia gave testimony during the preliminary hearing. Exinia said he found two guns in the hotel room Barr was shot in. One rifle was in the bedroom of the hotel room which . The other was a bolt action 4-10 shotgun which Barr had been shot with, according to information Exinia gave during the hearing. Exinia said the trajectory of the wound was downward. Exinia examined some bruising on the body of Barr but nothing to insinuate physical violence had occurred.

Cox said the bullet trajectory contradicted the gun being at an upward angle when it was shot.

“What the state law says is murder in the seconddegree is imminently dangerous, what Sherwood did was accidental and falls more under the laws of first-degree manslaughter. If this accident is describe as imminently dangerous I must know why so I can prepare to defend against the laws of imminently dangerous,” Simmons said during his final statement of the hearing.

“Imminently dangerous is described in the Oklahoma state law as being extremely high degree of risk of death of another person. Whether accident or not the victim was put at high risk of death and th court sees the charges will stand as second-degree murder,” Dirickson said.

The charge against Sherwood still is second-degree murder and the case is going to trial. A trial date has not been scheduled.

Sherwood will appear in court February 22 for a formal arraignment.