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Woman pleads to trying to burn family
Julie Barnard sentenced to 20 years in prison
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The woman accused of trying to burn a home down with her family inside pled guilty Thursday.
Julie Barnard pled guilty in Liberty County Superior Court Thursday on one count of arson in the first degree and five counts of aggravated assault in the case officials classified as a murder-suicide attempt back in May 2007.
Barnard was accused of starting a fire at her estranged husband’s home at 103 Dolly Jane Lane. Her husband John and her four children were home at the time she reportedly set their mobile home ablaze. She was living in Statesboro at the time, but had asked to spend the night here.
Barnard’s husband said he woke up about 4 a.m. to find flames and smoke billowing under his bedroom door. With nowhere else to go, he pushed an air conditioner from a window and escaped the blaze.
Once outside, he ran around toward the children’s bedroom, heard a window break and saw them make their way to safety.
According to Liberty County sheriff’s deputies, John Barnard waited until everyone was out of the residence and then went to his father’s house next door to call 911.
Julie Barnard reportedly took the children to Liberty Regional Medical Center and then left.
When Liberty County Fire Investigator James Ashdown interviewed the children, he determined there was enough information to indicate the fire was deliberate and contacted the state fire marshal. Ashdown said a smoke detector awakened the children. And the eldest daughter told authorities Julie Barnard gathered them together in the bedroom and asked them to pray instead of leaving.
Instead her daughter broke a window and got her brothers out. The teen suffered serious cuts that required surgery.
Officials from Liberty and Bulloch counties and surrounding communities were provided with Barnard’s description and vehicle information. The state fire marshal’s office also issued a warning advising she was considered a danger to herself and others.
Barnard was later apprehended when she was spotted near Oakridge Cemetery in Ludowici.
In December 2007 Barnard entered a plea of not guilty. She was originally scheduled for a plea hearing on Jan. 3, but it was continued. Recently Barnard filed a letter with the court asking for a change of public defenders, saying she had parasitic demons in her head and therefore felt her current attorney was not right to defend her.
However she was back in court on Thursday with the same defender and pled to all counts, avoiding a jury trial.
Liberty County Superior Court Judge Robert Russell allowed the guilty but mentally ill plea to stand and sentenced Barnard to 20-years confinement on the arson count and 20-years to run concurrent on the five counts of aggravated assault.
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