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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 16, 2003
Date of arrest: Same day (suicide attempt)
Date of birth: July 28, 1956
Victim profile: Kimbirli Jo Barton, 44 (his fourth wife)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Warren County, Ohio, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Ohio on July 12, 2006

An Interview with Rocky Barton

"She always used to joke about getting two rocking chairs and sitting on the front porch and watching the traffic go by. Just growing old with someone I love. I regret that. That was a dream of mine, and she was my dream lady." reporters Emanuella Grinberg and Harry Swartz-Turfle interviewed death row inmate Rocky Barton on July 7 at the Mansfield Correctional Institution in Mansfield, Ohio. He was executed by lethal injection Wednesday morning. The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.

COURTTVNEWS.COM: Can you start by describing a typical day on death row?

ROCKY BARTON: Well, start off about 8 a.m. for breakfast. We get two-and-a-half hours for rec. I usually play handball or basketball during recreation, and then eat lunch around 12, and read and watch TV for the remainder of the day.

CTV: What kind of shows are you able to watch?

BARTON: We pick up all the network channels.

CTV: Do you have a favorite show?

BARTON: Not really. I'm pretty burned out on TV, I've seen so much of it.

CTV: Do you read?


CTV: What's your favorite book?

BARTON: The Bible.

CTV: Any magazines or ...?

BARTON: I like reading the newspapers that come through.

CTV: Which newspapers do you get?

BARTON: The Dayton Daily is the one that's closest to my hometown. That's usually what I read is the Dayton Daily.

CTV: What's the highlight of your day?

BARTON: Recreation.

CTV: What's the low point?

BARTON: Probably the hours between 12 and 4 p.m. when I don't have recreation. It's a slow part of the day, there's nothing on TV. Usually get tired by then. I mean, bored more than tired.

CTV: Is recreation indoor or outdoor?

BARTON: They have an indoor recreation cage and an outdoor recreation cage. Every other month it changes up. Outside you have the opportunity to play basketball and handball. On the inside, they have exercise equipment. You can do pull-ups and sit-ups, dips, board games, cards. And the telephone's on the inside, so you have the opportunity to make collect calls.

CTV: Do you have a favorite board game?

BARTON: No, I don't play board games.

CTV: Do you do sit-ups or push-ups?

BARTON: I used to, but I got an injury to my shoulder. I got a torn rotator cuff, so it limits me to what I can do.

CTV: Do you communicate with other inmates?

BARTON: Yeah, during our recreation period is the only time we get to socialize. And there's five of us at a time that get out for recreation.

CTV: Are you friends with any of them?

BARTON: Yeah, I have friends on death row.

CTV: Do you get mail from any strangers or admirers or people you don't know?

BARTON: Yeah, I get a lot of mail from strangers. Most of it comes from the U.K. They're in Lifelines ... an organization against the death penalty, and they write. They write a lot of the death row inmates. I'm not the only one that gets mail from the U.K. They set you up with pen pals. But most of my mail comes from family members.

CTV: Do your family and friends visit you?

BARTON: My family does, yes.

CTV: You have sisters?

BARTON: I have three sisters.

CTV: And both of your parents are alive?


CTV: Do they visit you?

BARTON: Yes, they both visit me.

CTV: How has life in prison changed you?

BARTON: Well, I believe ... See, I shot myself during the crime. And I believe that God give me one more chance to live to get my life right with Him. So really, it's changed me to be more aware of all the bad choices that I've made. I have a lot of regrets.

CTV: What do you regret?

BARTON: Mostly, about killing my wife. I regret that dearly. I loved her with all my heart, and it was a spur-of-the-moment thing, and it eats me up every day.

CTV: We'll go back to that a little later. You grew up in Ohio, right?

BARTON: Yes, ma'am.

CTV: Growing up, what was your relationship like with your parents and your sisters?

BARTON: I more or less felt like the black sheep of the family. I was the oldest, and my mom and dad got divorced when I was 15 years old. And my mom pretty much had her hands full with three other kids. I was sort of rebellious, so I stayed in a lot of trouble and done a lot of wrong, you know. Running around, missing curfew. I gave my mom a hard time, hard way to go.

CTV: How about your sisters? What was the age difference?

BARTON: Let's see. ... I'm the oldest in the family, and my sister next to me, she is two years younger than me. And the next sister is four or five years younger than me, and then I have a baby brother that's 15 years younger than me. And my baby sister, she's 24 now, and I'm 49, so that's it.

CTV: What's your happiest memory from childhood?

BARTON: Probably the summertimes. Sitting around with the family get-togethers, making homemade ice cream with the old crank turnstile, and making homemade peach cobbler and just Sundays at my grandmother's house. We used to always go to my grandmother's house every Sunday after church. It was when you got together with all the aunts and uncles. There wasn't too many cousins then because I was so much older than the rest of them. There was a few cousins, but probably three at the time.

CTV: As a child, what did you want to grow up to be or do?

BARTON: I really don't remember what my ambitions was as a child. Since I shot myself, I have a hard time with my memory loss. I have memory loss, so it's not so good about certain things. There are certain things I just don't remember. And I really don't recall.

CTV: What are you good at?

BARTON: I was a pretty good carpenter. I like building and doing things with my hands.

CTV: Is there any particular moment in your life which you consider a turning point?

BARTON: Yes, when I shot myself I'd say was the turning point in my life. Turned me around and opened my eyes to what I'd been brought up and raised to believe in: God. And I strongly believe that He let me live. By the grace of God, I'm still alive today.

CTV: Can you expand on that? What did you believe growing up?

BARTON: My mother always took us to church as a child. We went to a Pentecostal church and believed in the Pentecostal ways.

CTV: Was there one thing you or someone else could've done in your younger life to prevent you from being here?

BARTON: No, I can't blame nothing on my parents because they tried their best to do what they could with me. Like I said, I was a handful. I was real rebellious, and I don't think anyone could've done anything except for myself. I made my own choices, I made my own mistakes, and now I must take responsibility for them. I can't blame it on no one but myself.

CTV: What decisions do you think you made earlier in life that have brought you here?

BARTON: The choices to do drugs. I started doing drugs and drinking alcohol at an early age, probably around 13 years old. Like I said, my mother had her hands full with my three younger siblings. I found comfort in doing drugs, and the people that did the drugs was like a family. They accepted me for who I was, which was into the drug scene.

CTV: Can you talk a little more about how drugs have affected your life?

BARTON: I've done drugs and drank alcohol for most of my life. And about every time I had a run-in with the law was from either drinking or doing drugs. I had a few DUIs, and I used to fight from being on drugs and being around that type of atmosphere. Drugs and alcohol both, if you're around that, there's trouble not far behind.

CTV: Did you receive treatment for drug addiction before coming to prison?

BARTON: No ... well, yeah, I went to a weekend intervention one time because of a DUI. It was a mandatory weekend intervention that I had to go through which didn't help me at all. When I was in prison in Kentucky, I got in every drug and alcohol program there was.

CTV: How did that go?

BARTON: It went well. After I got out of prison, I didn't use drugs or alcohol. I found the tools that I needed to use to be a productive citizen in society.

CTV: What are those tools?

BARTON: To stay away from them. There are more things you can do to occupy your time. I guess I thought of myself as a recreational user. Well, there is no recreational user. The drugs, they lead to trouble. You'll be drinking and driving, and sooner or later, you're going to get caught. ... And family. Family's real important to me. Whereas [when I was] growing up, I kind of alienated myself from my family to hide the drug use and the alcohol use. So, I kind of stayed away from them. When I got out of prison in 2002, my family was the most important thing to me.

CTV: Do you have any biological children?

BARTON: Yes, I have one.

CTV: What is your relationship with him or her?

BARTON: It's a son. I wasn't around for him growing up, which is another one of my regrets. I didn't get along with his mother's family, and that was at the time I was into drugs. I never took responsibility. I never had no part in raising him or supporting him. But now, I have a good relationship. He's a born-again Christian, and I've got letters from him where he forgives me and he cares about me and he loves me. We still communicate through the mail.

CTV: How were you employed when you were released in 2002?

BARTON: I worked at a print shop.

CTV: Doing what?

BARTON: Maintenance man, keeping the maintenance up on the machines.

CTV: Before you went to prison in Kentucky, how were you employed?

BARTON: I had a number of jobs, in construction. I've been a painter, plumber's helper, carpenter's helper, I trained race horses for probably 10 years. I enjoy being around animals, and that was the job that I enjoyed the most was training race horses.

CTV: Why?

BARTON: Well, it didn't interfere with my partying, was one reason. But another reason was I like to take, not really a wild animal, but an untrained animal, and teach them the basic fundamentals of racing. I just enjoyed it. And being in that type of atmosphere there was drugs and alcohol, there was plenty of that all around the race track. Anywhere you went. So, that probably played a big part of it.

CTV: And what was it like leaving prison in 2002, after nine years?

BARTON: Leaving prison. I've never been more terrified in my life. The times had changed so much that I couldn't even pump gas at a gas station. When I left, all you had to do was flip the lever up and press the handle on the gas pump hose and you got gas. Now, when you got out, you had to push buttons and they turned it on the inside of the station. And I couldn't even pump my own gas. And computers had pretty much took over. It was terrifying. Around home where I had grown up, there was houses everywhere so I couldn't really ... I never really got lost, but I never really felt comfortable with the traffic and all the people. And that was another thing, I hated to be around a bunch of people. I hated going to stores or out in public. I was more comfortable being at home on the farm. I lived on a farm. I was more comfortable there and with my family.

CTV: What else was different?

BARTON: Time itself has changed so much. I couldn't really put my finger on it, just one or two things. It seemed like a whole different world out there.

CTV: It was only two years after your release that you were back in prison. Do you feel like maybe in some way you wanted to go back there?

BARTON: No, I felt like maybe I had become institutionalized, and couldn't adjust to society, couldn't fit back in. Like I'd been out of circulation too long.

CTV: Why?

BARTON: Why? It's just hard to explain. Imagine yourself being locked into your house for a number of years, and then coming back out. Everything, your neighbors changed, the way they do things, the styles, the vehicles, everything's different. It's just so much different. It's just scary, because you're used to being in prison. You're used to having a routine down where you get fed at a regular time every day. All your decisions are made for you. The hardest decision you have to make is if you're going to eat or not that day, or what meal you're going to eat. You don't get to make any decisions for yourself, and you get booted back into society and you have all these decisions that you've got to make and you've got to take responsibility, where in prison you never had no responsibility.

CTV: Now, I'd like to ask about your case and what brought you here. Can you tell me how you and Kimbirli knew each other?

BARTON: Yes, well, I knew Kimbirli since school. We went to high school together, so I knew her for probably 30-some years. She was married to a friend of mine for 20 years.

CTV: And how did you reconnect with her while you were in custody?

BARTON: I was a friend, so I was always around. ... When I went to prison I stayed in contact with her and her husband. I wrote and they wrote me letters. ... And then when I got out of prison, she was going through some rough times in her marriage. I had gotten married in prison to a lady from Kentucky, and we was going through struggling in our marriage. [Kimbirli and I] were kind of just there for each other as friends. ...

We had always been best of friends. We could tell each other anything. She didn't look at me one way or the other. She looked at me for who I was, you know. Just Rocky. And we fell in love. When we was going through our divorces, it was just something that happened. It wasn't something that we planned on, we was just there for each other and it was good. It felt right.

CTV: So, when did all this happen between you?

BARTON: Out of prison, on parole. When I paroled in Kentucky.

CTV: And then you went back?

BARTON: Then I went back, I got a parole violation. Really, it was because of her ex-husband and my ex-wife. They kept calling my parole officer on me, saying I was doing drugs. They said that I stole his guns, and my ex-wife had me arrested for domestic violence when all it was was we got in an argument when I went to get my things. There was a sheriff there at the time but they still convicted me of telephone harassment and domestic violence.

CTV: So what happened on January 16, 2003? Why did you kill her?

BARTON: I don't know. I hadn't planned on killing her that day. I had planned on killing myself in front of her, that was the only way that I knew how I could hurt her. When she showed up, it was just a spur-of-the-moment thing. It was just anger, and I was hurt.

CTV: Why did you want to hurt her? Why were you feeling hurt?

BARTON: Because she had threatened to leave me. And I couldn't see life without her. I can't tell you what was going through my mind at the time. Like I said, from the gunshot wound, I shot myself right up underneath my chin, and you can see the scars right there. I was pretty messed up. I don't know if I suppressed what happened that day, or if it's from the gunshot wound. My memory is bad. I can't tell you the reason for it, all I know is I can tell you how I felt. I was hurt that she would leave me, and I was angry.

CTV: What's your biggest regret?

BARTON: My biggest regret is killing my wife. I mean, I loved her more than anything. I've been married four times, and I loved her more than any woman on this earth, besides my mother. I'm paying for it every day. I miss her bad. I miss her so bad. And her kids, I've been around them ever since they were born, because I was a friend of the family. And they even stated in court that I was more of a father to her than her real father was, which made me feel good, but then again, it made me feel bad. You know, because I'd betrayed them.

CTV: Do you have any other regrets?

BARTON: That I wasn't there for my first son during his childhood, when he was raised up, that I wasn't part of that. I mean, like I say, family means a lot to me, and it seemed like I betrayed the ones I loved.

CTV: How old is he now?

BARTON: My son will be 31 on July 22.

CTV: Why did you decide to terminate your appeals?

BARTON: Well, instead of sitting on death row for 10 or 20 years and having the stress of fighting the legal system. I don't think I could stand it. I can't stand it mentally. So, mainly it's because of guilt for what I done. I feel like I deserve to die.

CTV: Do you think life in prison without parole would be harder or easier?

BARTON: Life in prison would be worse ... Because either way you're going to die in prison, one way or another, either by the hand of the state or by natural causes. And I don't want to wait around to die. I'd rather go now while I'm healthy than wait until I get sick and have to lay around just waiting to die.

CTV: Do you expect any friends or family to be at your execution?

BARTON: Yes. There's a whole group, I got uncles and aunts and my sisters will be there. And my mother and father.

CTV: Are you religious?

BARTON: Yes ma'am, I am.

CTV: What do you think will happen to you when you die?

BARTON: I believe I'll go to heaven. We have a forgiving God, and I've asked God to forgive me of my sins and forgive me for killing my wife. And I believe in my heart that God has forgiven me. It's hard for me to forgive myself, but if God can forgive me, and He's the almighty, then you know. It's still hard to forgive myself.

CTV: With only four days until your execution, are you ready to die?

BARTON: Yes, I am at peace in my heart. I have peace. So, I am ready to die. I'm as ready as I'll ever be.

CTV: Is there anything you want people to know about you that they don't know already?

BARTON: Well, believe it or not, I do have a big heart, a kind heart. But I had an anger problem that I couldn't control. I think it's my worst problem, is my anger. I was being treated for depression and anxiety, and the medication wasn't really working the way it should be working. It made me feel real weird. I can't explain that, it just made me feel that more or less, I didn't have control of my actions. It's sort of like being outside my body watching myself. Not really hallucinating, I'm not talking about that. It just didn't feel right, the medication that I was on at the time of the crime. But I can't blame that, I'm not blaming that. I'm taking full responsibility for what I done, I made the decision to pull the trigger, for whatever reason. I did it. I love my wife and the kids dearly, and I'm truly very sorry for what I did. And if I could ever go back and do it again, it would be a different story. But I do love my family. It's hard.

CTV: Is there anything you want to be remembered for?

BARTON: I can't say anything really stands out that I done that would be worth remembering. I've lived such a wild life that most of the things I did I'm not proud of. But, when I last got out of prison, I did try. I tried to do what was right. I think my job caused a lot of stress, too. ... I had responsibility that I wasn't used to, and it was stressful always fearing that I'd lose my job. I guess I was sort of paranoid about certain things. I feared losing my job and losing my family and growing old and living alone. And that happened. Being remembered? It's an odd question.

I'm a good guy at heart. I try to be. I'm not the monster that they made me out to be during the trial. I mean, I did a terrible, terrible thing, which I'm paying for. But at least I've dropped my appeals, and I'm taking my punishment like a man. I'm standing up and taking responsibility for what I done. I'm not trying to look for some loophole to beat the system, where I've lived all my life trying to beat the system and take the easy way out. So, I guess that's what I'd like to be remembered for. For standing up and taking responsibility for what I done. I guess you could call that integrity of some sort.

CTV: Was there anything you didn't accomplish in your life that you would've liked to accomplish? Anywhere you would've liked to have gone or seen?

BARTON: Yes, I always wanted to go to Hawaii because I like the warm weather and I'd have liked to have seen the volcanoes and the islands, and I think just grow old with Kimbirli. She used to always joke about getting two rocking chairs and sitting on the front porch and watching the traffic go by. Just growing old with someone I love. I regret that. That was a dream of mine, and she was my dream lady.



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