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Dupree Barber

Jury reaches guilty verdict quickly for ex-parks worker accused of killing his boss

Published: Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 - 6:36 am

Jurors took only an hour and 25 minutes before they reached a verdict Thursday that convicted a laid-off Cordova Recreation and Park District maintenance employee of first-degree murder in the shooting death of his former boss.

The nine women and three men on the panel began deliberations at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, left at 4:30 p.m., returned to Sacramento Superior Court and resumed discussions at 9:20 a.m. on Thursday.

At 9:45 a.m., they buzzed the bailiff to tell him they had reached a verdict. The jury found Dupree Pierre Barber, 49, guilty in the 6 a.m. shooting death of Steve Ebert, 59, on Jan. 23, 2012, at Hagan Community Park.

Members of the jury then stuck around in the hallway after the verdict to express condolences to Carole Ebert, the wife of the victim.

Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard said there was a good reason for the jury's relatively rapid-fire verdict, one of the quickest to come back in the Sacramento courthouse in recent years.

"There was an overwhelming amount of evidence," Norgaard said. "I have a great deal of faith in the jury system, and it always confirms my faith. They always do the right thing."

Barber's attorney, Supervising Assistant Public Defender John Perkins, could not be reached for comment after the verdict.

Judge Patrick Marlette scheduled Barber's sentencing for Aug. 28. Barber is facing a sentence of life in prison without parole for his first-degree murder conviction that contained two special-circumstance allegations. They were for lying in wait and for conducting a drive-by shooting.

There were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, but jurors found the circumstantial case against Barber to be ironclad.

He bought a car five days before the killing that investigators found just outside Hagan Park heavily damaged with matching wreckage found close to where Ebert's body was found slumped to the side in his Jeep Wrangler. The murder weapon, a .357 caliber handgun, was found in the back seat of the car. Barber shot Ebert six times with it, the jury found.

Barber had filed a racial discrimination complaint against the park district over his failure to be promoted within the agency. He named Ebert as a defendant in the suit.

Less than two weeks before the fatal shooting, the district included Barber in a budget-cutting layoff.

At a meeting where the layoffs were affirmed, Barber engaged in an angry exchange with the man he would later be convicted of murdering.

With two previous convictions for domestic violence, the jury also found Barber guilty of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

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