A Sacramento Superior Court jury began deliberations Wednesday in the murder trial of a laid-off Cordova Recreation and Park District maintenance employee accused of fatally shooting his former boss.
Judge Patrick Marlette sent the jury out after closing arguments in the case against Dupree Pierre Barber, now 49, who is accused in the death of Steve Ebert, 59, who was gunned down in his car at Hagan Community Park around 6 a.m. on Jan. 23, 2012, while going to work.
Barber had been laid off 12 days before the killing at an emotional meeting where witnesses said he engaged in an angry exchange with Ebert.
Barber, an African American, had previously named Ebert, who was white, as a defendant in a 2009 racial discrimination suit. Barber later withdrew the suit.
Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard said the layoff gave Barber a "monster motive" to kill Ebert.
The evidence showed that Barber purchased a new car five days before the shooting. It was discovered near the site of the killing. The handgun that authorities say was used in the shooting was found inside the car.
"In this case, it's just way too much planning," Norgaard told the jury in his closing argument. "It's a lying-in-wait murder. His only challenge is to say it's a whodunit, not a what is it. And it's not a whodunit."
Norgaard called it "a very personal murder," with Ebert dying from six gunshots fired from fairly close range.
"Somebody wanted this man dead," the prosecutor said. "This is an intense hatred. Somebody is very angry at Mr. Ebert."
According to evidence at trial, Barber and Ebert verbally squared off in the heated layoff meeting, accusing each other of being liars, Norgaard said. Barber was "an emotionally angry guy" who "commandeered" the meeting and "focused on the supervisor."
Norgaard quoted Barber as saying around the time of the meeting that Ebert "hates me with a passion" and "wants me fired." Ebert, in turn, had described Barber as "dangerous" and "volatile," Norgaard said.
Barber took the witness stand during the trial to say he didn't commit the killing, that he was with a woman he only knew by the name of "Yvette" on a one-night stand at the time Ebert was killed. The woman was never located to corroborate Barber's alibi.
The defendant also suggested that someone tried to set him up as the suspect, that someone broke into his apartment and got the keys to his car, which was later found on Dolecetto Drive in Rancho Cordova shortly after the killing.
Supervising Assistant Public Defender John Perkins said his client "was not the greatest witness in the world," and that the case will come down to whether the jury believes his story.
"If you don't believe Mr. Barber, you convict him," Perkins said.
Perkins didn't contest pieces of the DA's case, such as the discovery of the murder weapon inside the vehicle.
He sought to explain it, however, recounting Barber's testimony that he bought the car to drive to West Virginia to check out a possible new job. As for the gun, Perkins said, there were no prints or other evidence on the weapon to conclusively link it to his client.
Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.