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Jerry Barker was shot to death by his wife, Rebecca Barker — but it wasn’t the first time she shot one of her husbands.
Jerry Lee Barker was born in Alabama in 1937. He later moved to Rusk, Texas, a small town in the state’s southeast corner which would remain his home until his death. He worked as a long-haul trucker and owned his own rig. In 1950, he married Frances “Mae” Haynes. Together they raised four sons.
When not on the road, Jerry enjoyed being with his family and teaching the boys how to fix cars. When they grew up and had families of their own, he played the part of a loving grandfather. But in 2001, after 40 years of marriage, Mae suffered a fatal heart attack. Her death was hard on the whole family, especially Jerry. Work eased the grief but came back the moment he returned to an empty home.
But just a year later, he found love again. Jerry met 40-year-old waitress Rebecca Osborne at the cafe where she worked. Divorced with two grown children of her own, the two hit it off and began dating, according "Snapped," airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
Despite an age difference of over 20 years, things got serious. Jerry’s family was surprised to see him with another woman so soon after losing his first wife.
“He said to us, ‘Y’all don’t understand how hard it’s been since Mae died and to have somebody to be around helps fill that void. I’m not so lonely,'" Jerry’s daughter-in-law Prissy Houston told “Snapped.”
Rebecca often joined Jerry on his trucking jobs but by 2008 he was ready to get off the road. He sold his 18-wheeler and used the money to open a general store in Dialville, Texas, up the road from Rusk, where he and Rebecca worked.
“She cooked, worked back in the cafe. She would run the register. She did the finances and the books,” prosecutor Deborah Dictson told “Snapped.”
But the domestic harmony soon came to an end. On the afternoon of February 26, 2014, Rebecca made a frantic call to Cherokee County’s 911 dispatch.
“Ma’am … I just shot my husband,” Rebecca is heard saying on the call, which was obtained by “Snapped.” “Oh god, what have I done? ... I’ve done the wrong thing. I shot him. I’m so scared.”
Law enforcement officers headed to the scene were informed they might be walking into a hostile situation. But when they arrived, Rebecca complied with orders to come outside and was taken into custody.
“She seemed to be distraught. She was shut down so I wasn’t able to speak with her,” Cherokee County Sheriff’s Investigator J.C. Bonet told “Snapped.”
Inside the home, authorities found 76-year-old Jerry Barker sitting in his easy chair with his feet up on his ottoman.
“It looked like he was still asleep in his easy chair except for the pooling of blood on his chest. When they checked for a pulse there was none,” Dictson told “Snapped.”
A Ruger 357 revolver was retrieved at the scene. Rebecca confirmed it was the murder weapon.
In her interview with authorities, Rebecca claimed she and Jerry fought constantly about the store. She said she was overworked and Jerry didn’t pitch in. On the morning of the murder, she refused to go to work, leading to a big argument.
“He told me that I was a bitch and that he wanted a divorce and I’m just trying to do the best I can with this man,” Rebecca told investigators in her taped interview, which was obtained by “Snapped.” " ... He called me all kinds of ugly words and ugly names. He was griping and griping and griping. I just did it. I loved that man but he pushed me to my limit and I can’t believe what I did.”
Rebecca’s story would have legal implications in what the ultimate charges against her would be.
“We start looking at, is there a claim for sudden passion? Did this happen in the heat of the moment? Did it rise to the level to that she could legally claim that so it's more manslaughter than cold-blooded intentional murder?” said Dictson.
While Rebecca seemed animated and upset during her interview, when detectives left the room she was calm as could be. Inconsistencies in her story and the call log on her phone would reveal an hour passed between when she shot Jerry and when she called 911.
Following her statement to police, Rebecca Barker was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, according to Tyler, Texas, ABC-affiliate KLTV.
An autopsy determined that Jerry was shot from a distance of within three feet. Wounds on his arms indicated he was asleep at the time of death.
"It looked there’s not even an argument going on. She didn’t have a self-defense claim. She didn’t have a sudden passion claim,” explained Dictson.
Jerry’s family were heartbroken when told the Barker family patriarch had been killed. They claimed Rebecca had attempted to create distance between Jerry and them, refusing to put him on the phone when they called.
"She kind of kept us away. 'You come on our property and we will shoot you.' That's pretty drastic," son Jerry Michael Barker said in an interview with KLTV.
Initially, Jerry took his wife’s side and thought his family was ganging up on her. However, in recent months, he had made it known that he was unhappy in the marriage and was thinking of divorce.
“I honestly believe Jerry told her he wanted a divorce and she was upset. It was his house and he was planning to leave her,” said Houston.
Jerry’s family told investigators that several weeks before his death, his health had taken a sudden and suspicious turn for the worse.
"Shaking like a rag, like he had some type of Parkinson's disease. He had all of the wrong medicines in his system, not functional and couldn't think for himself. She was running the show," son Gary Barker told KLTV.
Jerry’s family asked Adult Protective Services to perform a wellness check. The plan backfired, with Barker in good health and irate that his family was interfering in his relationship.
Investigators soon learned that in 2013, Jerry had given power of attorney to Rebecca. They believed her motive for the murder was simple greed. If she and Jerry divorced, they would have to split their assets. If he was dead, she’d get everything.
Another shocking revelation soon came. Authorities were stunned to discover that in 1996 Rebecca had shot her first husband, John Osbourne. Like Jerry, he had been sitting in a recliner in their living room at the time and the couple was on the verge of divorce.
"I remember, I think, one of the bullets went through the back of the recliner, the back of his neck, and out his jaw. That's the one that really sticks out in my mind," Liberty County investigator Ivan Pearce told KLTV. "It was really a miracle he lived through it."
Osborne survived the shooting and blamed it on Rebecca’s alcoholism. He was reluctant to pursue a case against her and she ended up doing less than six months in prison as a result.
While incarcerated, Rebecca spoke again to investigators, calling her initial statement, “a big ass lie,” according to Texas’ Jacksonville Progress newspaper. She now claimed Jerry’s shooting was an accident which occurred when they were both drunk.
“In toxicology, in looking at his blood, his blood alcohol level was minimal at best, so we know that part’s not true. She meant to take this man’s life and that’s exactly what she did,” said Dictson.
Rebecca Barker waived her right to trial but asked for a jury to determine her sentence. In 2014, she was sentenced to life in prison, according to Nacogdoches, Texas, CBS-affiliate KYTX. She will be eligible for parole in 2044, at the age of 82.
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