RIVERSIDE – The defense will begin presenting its case today in the trial of a Perris man accused of beating and strangling his wife and her 6- year-old daughter to exact revenge for the woman’s infidelity.
Michael Barbar, who also goes by the name Atem Mourad, could face the death penalty if convicted of murdering 43-year-old Maysam Barbar and her daughter, Tamara, in a premeditated attack in 2009.
The prosecution rested its case on June 28, and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Edward Webster gave jurors all of last week off to avoid scheduling interruptions stemming from Independence Day.
Along with two counts of first-degree murder, the 54-year-old defendant is charged with special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and taking the lives of multiple victims.
His attorneys acknowledge that he carried out the killings but argue he was consumed with rage and not thinking clearly at the time, making him guilty of involuntary manslaughter but innocent of first-degree murder.
But Deputy District Attorney John Aki alleges Barbar plotted the crimes and committed them in a calculated manner, taking nearly two hours to kill his wife and her child.
According to prosecutors, Maysam Barbar had been married to the defendant for at least 10 years and had one child — a daughter — with him. The now 13-year-old girl was at home, hiding, when Barbar allegedly murdered her mother and younger half-sister.
Aki alleges Barbar decided to kill his wife after learning she had committed adultery and confirming through a paternity test that Tamara was the result of that affair.
Sheriff’s Detective Joshua Button testified that the victims were killed in separate rooms on the night of Nov. 14, 2009.
Button, among the first homicide investigators to arrive at the two- story house at 2846 Banner Place, found Maysam Barbar in the master bedroom, face down on the floor, nude with a blanket thrown over her body. According to the witness, her hands had been cuffed behind her back and a black power cord was tied around her neck.
In a separate bedroom, Tamara was discovered face down on the floor in a shirt and underwear. Button testified that blood spatter was all over the room.
He said on examining Tamara’s body, he noticed a ”star-shaped injury on her forehead” so deep her skull was exposed. One of her bedposts was covered in blood and a clump of her hair, and a television cable had been tied around the child’s neck, the detective testified.
Barbar was captured on Nov. 15, 2009, in Deming, N.M., allegedly preparing to flee south of the border on his way back to Lebanon, his homeland.