By Teresa Stepzinski
Convicted in the sex murder of 6-year-old Brunswick boy
BRUNSWICK — The jury that found David Edenfield guilty of murdering and sexually abusing his 6-year-old neighbor decided Tuesday he should be put to death.
The jury began deliberating about 4:40 p.m.. after closing arguments from District Attorney Stephen Kelley and Edenfield’s defense lawyers, John Beall IV and James Yancey Jr.
Less than three hours later, it was announced the jurors had vote unanimously for the death penalty.
In his final argument, Kelley made an impassioned plea to jurors for justice for Christopher Michael Barrios Jr., a kindergartner who lived a few doors away from Edenfield at Canal Mobile Home Park.
Justice demands that the punishment fit the crime, and the only punishment fit for Christopher’s savage sexual assault and horrific, torturous murder is the death penalty, Kelley said.
“But for one man’s cold heart, but for one man’s depraved mind, Christopher Barrios would be alive today,” Kelley said.
Kelley reminded jurors of the evidence — including Edenfield’s own words in a recorded confession — that he sodomized Christopher before choking him to death, “acting on instinct” because he wanted to see what it felt like to choke somebody.
He asked jurors to recall the evidence that Edenfield then sexually gratified himself over the boy’s naked, lifeless body before the child was wrapped in five plastic garbage bags and dumped, like trash, in the woods.
“This crime was outrageous, heinous, senseless and tragic. Every time you feel sorry for David Edenfield think of Christopher and think of his last horrendous moments of life,” he told jurors.
Kelley became so emotional that at one point he blurted that Edenfield was “this animal.”
Edenfield’s attorneys immediately objected and asked Judge Stephen Scarlett to admonish the veteran prosecutor. They also moved for a mistrial, which the judge denied.
Appearing surprised at his own words, Kelley immediately apologized to the jury. Scarlett instructed the panel to disregard Kelley’s remark because it was improper.
Kelley also told jurors that Edenfield had “traveled down a road of sexual perversion” that began when he committed incest with his mentally retarded daughter in 1994. He detailed other examples of improper sex in the family.
Beall argued that Edenfield’s life should be spared.
Edenfield “is not a cancer on society but a human being,” Beall told jurors.
“We ask you to consider mercy even though some of you may feel David deserves none,” he said.
Edenfield will die in prison, Beall said, regardless if he is executed or sentenced to life with or without parole.
Pointing to Christopher’s family in the courtroom, Beall said “The hole in the hearts of his family and friends will not be healed with the death of David Edenfield.”
Beall also told jurors they will have to live with their decision, which may well haunt them for years to come.
“Homicide by execution is an awesome, awesome decision,” Beall said.
Yancey told the jury they should spare Edenfield’s life because he should not receive a greater punishment than that which might be imposed on his wife, Peggy, and their son, George, also charged in the killing.
Yancey reminded them that prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty or life without parole against Peggy if she testified against her husband and son. George Edenfield, who is mentally retarded, may never be mentally competent to stand trial in the case, he said.
Kelley has said he will seek the death penalty when George Edenfield is tried.
Although Edenfield’s former neighbors and others testified to his friendliness and helpful nature in the past, Edenfield did not utter a word in his own defense. Instead, he sat passively throughout the proceedings including some of his recorded admissions of sodomizing and helping his son strangle the boy.
The three Edenfields moved to Canal Mobile Home Park after they were informed that as a convicted sex offender, George could not live close to a park where children play. Brunswick has a park with playground equipment that occupies a full block a short distance from their former home.
At the mobile home park, the Edenfield house sat between the mobile homes of Christopher’s father, Mike Barrios, and his grandmother, Sue Rodriguez. In walking between their homes, Christopher passed by a corner of the Edenfields’ rented mobile home.
He disappeared while playing in the park on March 8, 2007, and his body was found a week later to the day.
It had taken the jury of six men and six women empaneled in Jeff Davis County less than two hours Monday to find Edenfield guilty of murder, cruelty to children, three counts of aggravated child molestation and other charges.
The jury, sequestered since the Sept. 30 opening of the trial, worked through the weekend.
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)