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A love of video games brought together James Barry and Melanie Eam. However, when James broke up with Melanie via a gaming chat app, it sent her into a homicidal rage.
James Barry was born in 1995 and grew up on a Florida homestead filled with cats, dogs, and horses. James was known for his sense of adventure and his kindness.
“He was a very special baby. James truly was a gift of God,” his older sister, Alexandra Barry, told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
When James was 7, his parents divorced. Alexandra went to live with her father while James stayed with his mom. Both parents, however, remained committed to raising their children together. As he grew into a teenager, James became a committed student and stayed out of trouble. Outside of school work, his main interest was gaming.
“He loved video games. He was a big time gamer,” Alexandra said. “That was his everything.”
During his senior year of high school, James began dating fellow gamer Melanie Eam. Shy and soft-spoken, she became a fixture of the Barrys’ home life, often spending the holidays with them.
When James graduated high school, Melanie dropped out and got a GED in order to follow him to Palm Beach State College. They often took the same classes together just to be with each other all the time.
But that all ended during November 2016. At 12:52 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 16, 2016, 911 in Loxahatchee, Florida, received a frantic call from Nicola Barry, James’ mother.
“Somebody came in and stabbed my son and he’s bleeding,” Nicola is heard saying on a recording of her 911 call, which was obtained by “Snapped.”
When police arrived they found the crumpled body of James Barry surrounded by his mother, her boyfriend, Guy Hand, and James’ friend Jeff Jarzabkowski. There was blood everywhere.
“James is suffering from a very severe stab wound to the chest. He also is suffering from a number of different sharp force injuries, both stab wounds and slice wounds,” prosecutor Reid Scott told “Snapped.”
Despite the efforts of first responders, James Barry died before reaching a hospital, according to local newspaper The Palm Beach Post. He was 21 years old.
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Detective Sean Oliver arrived at the Barry home and began investigating the crime scene. On the kitchen counter, he found the murder weapon.
“This knife was no ordinary kitchen knife. This knife had a long blade, roughly 10 inches long. It was curved. Very sharp,” Oliver told “Snapped.”
Jeff Jarzabkowski told detectives he was sleeping over at James’ home that night. He fell asleep on James’ bed around 9:30 while his friend played a video game.
"He woke me up when I was sleeping and he said, ‘Jeff, just so you know, I think it’s over,'” Jarzabkowski is heard saying on his recorded statement, which was obtained by “Snapped.” “Then I fell back asleep ... I woke up and then I heard a loud bang. And then all of the sudden, he stormed in the room, hit the door, turned on the light, and as he was running in, he said, ‘Jeff, help … help. Please get out of here, help.'”
James then collapsed on the bed. He had been stabbed multiple times and was bleeding profusely. Guy Hand came into the room and attempted CPR while Nicola Barry called 911.
“There was blood gushing out and then I put my hands on his chest. I was holding it. I didn’t know what to do. I was holding the blood and it was just coming out,” Jarzabkowski tearfully told detectives.
Nicola said it was a typical night at home before havoc ensued. She and the boys had dinner together before they retired to Jeff’s bedroom.
“I heard Jeff, I guess about one o’clock, screaming ,‘Help, help, help. Come,'" Nicola told detectives on her recorded statement, which was obtained by “Snapped.”
Hand said that when he entered the bedroom and saw James covered in blood, he thought the boys were playing a prank on him. He found the murder weapon on the floor outside James’ bedroom and put it on the kitchen counter so no one would step on it.
Detectives didn’t consider any of the people inside the home as potential suspects. None of them, however, saw who murdered James and there were no signs of a break in.
A pink cell phone, though, was found on the back patio, just outside the back door, which was ajar.
“I had to confirm with the victim’s mother, Nicola, that this cell phone that was found on the patio belonged to the victim’s girlfriend, Melanie,” Oliver said.
When detectives asked Nicola if Eam could have murdered James, she dismissed the idea. Eam was shy and meek, not the type to explode into violence.
Eam's mother soon arrived at the Barry home. She said she couldn’t get ahold of her daughter. The last time she saw Eam, she was upset and sped off in her white Toyota Corolla.
Detectives spoke with James’ father, who said on the night of the murder he was exchanging text messages with his son. James told his father he was planning on breaking up with Eam.
“The night of the breakup, his last words to my father were, ‘It’s going to hurt a lot,'" said Alexandra.
Detectives obtained a search warrant to access Eam's phone. On it, they found text messages on a gaming chat app between her and James on the night of the murder. James told her he wanted to break up.
“The messages clearly indicate that she is quite distraught and upset over that relationship ending,” Scott said.
Home security camera footage from one of the Barrys’ neighbors caught Melanie’s car arriving in the neighborhood just before James’ murder, then leaving immediately after.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's named Melanie Eam as “a person of interest” in the murder of James Barry on Nov. 17, 2016, according to West Palm Beach NBC-affiliate WPTV.
Jarzabkowski told detectives that James had tried to break up with Melanie several times in the past. He said she was possessive and insisted James spend all his time with her.
“She despises me because I’m the only one that will tell James to break up with her because I know her for what she is and she’s severely mentally unstable,” Jarzabkowski told detectives during a taped interview that was obtained by “Snapped.”
James had told Jarzabkowski that after one breakup, Eam picked up a knife and threatened to stab herself. Eam’s family sent her to stay with relatives in Maryland hoping to put some distance on the relationship. After several months apart, James and Eam rekindled their romance in the summer of 2016.
Detectives tracked Eam to Silver Springs, Maryland, where she was staying with relatives. Under the guise of a wellness check, local police went to speak with her.
“I’m just wondering when should I go in for the questioning,” Eam asked the officers, an incident captured on one of their body cams, which was obtained by “Snapped.”
Later that day, detectives from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office arrived at the home. They sat down with Eam at a kitchen table where she told detectives that when James broke up with her via text message she was “extremely hurt,” according to The Palm Beach Post.
“He said for months that he didn’t actually love me,” Eam told detectives in her recorded statement, which was obtained by “Snapped.”
After driving to James’ home to confront him in person, Eam flew into a rage, grabbed a knife out of a kitchen drawer, and went on the attack. She told detectives she wasn’t sure how many times she stabbed James, according to The Palm Beach Post.
Before detectives left, Eam provided them with the shirt she was wearing on the night of the murder, still covered in James’ blood.
Rather than arrest her immediately, detectives waited to review the details with prosecutors in Florida. The following morning they arrested Eam for second-degree murder, according to WPTV.
At Eam’s first trial, in the fall of 2018, her defense team effectively cast suspicion on others present at the Barry home on the night of the murder. The judge declared a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a verdict, according to WPTV.
Knowing Eam’s defense strategy, prosecutors were able to prepare for her second murder trial. On January 10, 2019. Melanie Eam was found guilty of second-degree murder for the stabbing death of James Barry, according to West Palm Beach CBS affiliate WPEC. In April 2019, Melanie Eam was sentenced to 50 years in prison, according to WPTV. Now 25, she is scheduled for release in 2066.
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