RIVERSIDE – A Perris man should be sentenced to death for killing his wife and her 6-year-old daughter in a ”hate-filled” act of vengeance over the woman’s infidelity, a prosecutor said today.
”He waited for an opportunity to catch his victims unaware, then executed his plan,” Riverside County Deputy District Attorney John Aki said in his closing statement in the penalty trial of Michael Barbar.
”That’s so much more heinous than a random act of violence … He premeditated on this, thought about how we was going to do it,” the proecutor told jurors. ”Now he says he’s remorseful? Does a man who plays slot machines – – and wins money — after killing a mother and child seem remorseful to you?”
Barbar’s attorneys were slated to make their closing arguments this afternoon.
The seven-woman, five-man jury last month convicted the 55-year-old defendant of two counts of first-degree murder and special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and taking the lives of multiple victims in one crime. The same panel must now decide whether to recommend that he be executed for the murders or spend the rest of his life behind bars.
”He may have been sad and depressed about his wife’s affairs. He had a right to be,” Aki told jurors. ”But he had no right to rob these victims of their lives.”
Aki showed photographs of 43-year-old Maysam ”Michelle” Barbar and her daughter, Tamara, whom the defendant believed was his until results of a paternity test proved otherwise about a week before the killings in November 2009.
The child had always looked upon Barbar as her father, Aki said.
”He was daddy — protector, comforter, the one who brings solace and love,” the prosecutor said. ”In the end, all he brought was destruction.”
Aki showed an autopsy photo of the 6-year-old, face bruised, swollen and blood-stained.
”Imagine her last moments,” he said. ”’Daddy, please don’t. Stop!’ Unconditional love looking back at you, and you continue with your murderous plan. Tells you a lot about this man.”
The prosecutor said Barbar considered Tamara his property, and when he didn’t want her anymore, he discarded her, remembering her only as ”that bastard child.”
”What a hate-filled, awful description,” Aki said.
He acknowledged that the three known extramarital affairs Michelle Barbar had during her 12-year marriage to the defendant did not reflect well on her. But she was ”trying to do the right thing” by seeking therapy and regular employment, Aki said.
He asked jurors to validate the victims’ worth by recommending capital punishment for Barbar.
The defendant admitted fatally choking his wife while she was handcuffed in bed, and when he heard Tamara crying in an adjacent bedroom, he went over to shut her up by choking her.
Michelle Barbar’s body was discovered in the master bedroom of the family’s two-story home on Banner Place, nude with a black electrical cord tightly wound around her neck.
In a separate bedroom, investigators found Tamara face-down on the floor, blood spatter saturating the room, with obvious signs the child had been strangled with a television cable, and her head bashed repeatedly into a bed post.
Barbar went to the Morongo Casino in Cabazon and gambled before heading east toward Texas, where the prosecution argued he intended to kill one of his wife’s lovers, then flee to his native Lebanon.