Caldwell police question murder confession

Caldwell police question murder confession
Posted at 1:17 PM, Dec 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-10 18:40:36-05

A Caldwell man told police over the weekend he murdered his stepfather, but test results show the man died from natural causes, officials said.

Robert Barnhart, 36, walked into the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office about 10 a.m. Saturday and confessed to suffocating his stepfather, Randall Turner, 63.

Detectives interviewed Barnhart and later booked him into the Canyon County Jail.

On Thursday, December 7th, officers and paramedics were called to a home in the 3000 block of South Illinois Avenue. There, they found Turner “unconscious and not breathing,” according to Caldwell Police Sgt. Damon Rice.

Turner was pronounced dead at the scene.

“What makes this case suspicious is that there was nothing at the scene to indicate foul play,” Rice stated.

Barnhart was living at the residence.

Canyon County Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris, who also responded to the South Illinois Avenue address, confirmed Monday afternoon that Turner officially died of a cardiac arrest. “Based on our external exam and from what others at the scene told us, we’ve determines (Turner) died of natural causes. There was no indication of a suffocation. There was no indication of a struggle. There was no indication of foul play,” she said.

Both Turner and Barnhart lived at the residence.

Rice would not say on-the-record why Barnhart would confess to such a crime.

In court documents, the detective who questioned Barnhart wrote that he was suspicious of the confession -– so he used a ruse to see what Barnhart’s reaction would be. “Due to concerns of the validity of Barnhart’s confession … I advised Barnhart that I had just gone to the Coroner’s Office and looked over (the decedent’s) body. I advised Barnhart that I had noticed a slight incision to (Turner’s) gut and asked him if he knows anything about that. Barnhart paused for some time before stating, “Yeah, I think I stabbed him with a pair of scissors,” the detective wrote.

Detectives say they found a pair of scissors in the home that matched the description of scissors Barnhart claimed he used -- yet several investigators confirmed there were no incisions, stab wounds, or defensive wounds on the body.

Nevertheless, Barnhart was arraigned on the first-degree murder charge in the Canyon County Courthouse Monday afternoon. His preliminary hearing is set for December 20th at 8:30 a.m., according to Canyon County spokesman Joe Decker.

The Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office, Coroner’s Office, and Caldwell Police are continuing to investigate.