True Crime: Two Million Reasons for Murder

Justin Barber said his wife was killed during a late-night robbery—but the details didn't add up. Seek the truth in this harrowing true crime story.

By Kenneth Miller from Reader's Digest Magazine

True Crime: Two Million Reasons for MurderDaron Dean/AP Photo. The Record/AP Photo. Illustration by Jesse Lenz
For couples craving solitude, the beach at Guana River State Park is an ideal spot for a late-night tryst. Hidden by thickets of saw palmetto, the ribbon of sand unspools along a lonesome stretch of Route A1A south of Jacksonville, Florida. Entry after sunset is officially forbidden, but intrepid lovers often park on the roadside and follow wooden walkways into the dunes.

Justin Barber, 30, and his wife, April, 27, had done just that on August 17, 2002. They were tipsy and amorous, Justin later recalled, having celebrated their third wedding anniversary with dinner at an Italian restaurant, followed by drinks at a bar. Around 10:30 p.m., as they strolled along the water’s edge, a tall man in a baggy T-shirt approached them. He waved a pistol and yelled something about cash and car keys. Justin stepped in front of April. The gun went off. He grappled with the stranger. The beach went black.

When Justin came to, he found he’d been shot four times—in both shoulders, under the right nipple, and through the left hand. The man was gone. Justin called April’s name, then spotted her floating face down in the surf. There was a .22-caliber hole in her left cheek. He dragged her up the beach until his strength gave out, then left her and staggered to the road to flag down passing cars. When none stopped, he climbed into his Toyota 4Runner, turned on the flashers, and gunned it. Nearly ten miles down the road, a motorist signaled him to pull over and called 911. As Justin was transferred to a hospital, police and rescuers searched the beach for April.

Lt. Ben Tanner of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Department found her. “She was lying with her head to the north, facing the ocean,” he says. “She didn’t have a pulse.”

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  • Your Comments

    • rwlcpa

      I recently had a mind to research the outcome of this case because I worked with this guy at Rayonier (in Lake Oswego, Oregon) before he was convicted. Being hired by the Senior VP of Finance and the Executive VP of Legal at Rayonier Corporate in Jacksonville, FL, I was brought in to oversee the operations and keep a close eye on the Lumber Products Trading division of the company and its management where Barber had been transferred across country from being an attache’ for the SVP Finance to work clear across the country for an inconspicuous subsidiary of a Fortune 200 company.

      I listened closely and observed many different views and was appraised of the suspicions of a corporate relocation to keep the heat off the upper management.

      The women in the office were frightened of Barber.

      During my short tenure, I inspected Barber’s vehicle (Toyota 4Runner) which displayed Florida license plates, but had Oregon stickers that had been removed from another vehicle and pasted onto the Florida plates, keeping the appearance of being legal and properly licensed.

      After raising my suspicions, I took the opportunity to watch this character very closely during casual after work outings with the GM, whom I was also hired to watch and report back to corporate. Barber was always needing the center of attention, and was a very calculating and troubled person at that time, shifty and untrustworthy. He was also a womanizer and flirt without a care as though he had some magical touch…very arrogant. This was all after only months after being transferred…showed no remorse. Further, on one occasion, I gained the courage to inquire about the matter in a social setting. This guy had the audacity to even brag about his “self inflicted” injuries. When he went to this spot I watched his body language and eyes very closely, and in my opinion, I say a guilty man intent on one thing…survival.

      Moreover, the whole operation and duties he was “responsible” for were fraught with fraud and deception from corporate oversight. Collusion of railcars filled with thousands of dollars in product being lost due to side tracking, etc. etc.

      It would not have surprised me if this thread ran much deeper?! Based on fear of the environment and compelling accusations from the GM, etc., I chose to resign and move on.

      Within a couple of days after my chosen departure and severing my employment to protect my CPA license from fraudulent activity, I received an inquisition call from the EVP Legal, inquiring of what I knew and much about my experiences.

      I chose not to get involved, but felt all along that the knowledge of events were conspicuous at best, and perhaps worse.

      I told the EVP that I did not want to get involved, that I believed there were significant illegal activities occurring, and that I did not want to be contacted again.

      I was never subpoenaed to testify.

      It appears that some Justin justice was served…I wonder whom else knew or was involved???

    • FBI

      No one cares. Nor did the police apparently.

    • Ran

      God saw it all…………

    • Sangeetharichard

      hats off to the investigators….