A man who called a Seattle television station last week to say he’d killed his wife subsequently told Pierce County investigators that Sara Barrett “was still breathing when I left her,” court records show.
Tony Barrett made his first appearance Monday in Superior Court after his arrest last week on suspicion of killing his wife.
The 42-year-old man was shackled at the hands and feet and wore a padded smock reserved for inmates considered a danger to themselves or others. The sleeveless garment revealed a “Sara” tattoo on his right bicep.
Not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf to first-degree murder and attempting to elude a pursing police officer. Court Commissioner Meagan Foley ordered him jailed in lieu of $2 million.
Authorities believe Barrett killed his wife, also 42, Wednesday. Investigators found her body Thursday in a Tacoma motel room. She’d been asphyxiated, the Medical Examiner’s Office reported.
Barrett called KOMO News late Wednesday to say he’d killed his wife. The station alerted authorities, who began searching for Barrett. He eventually was spotted driving in downtown Tacoma and led authorities on a high-speed chase that ended in Gig Harbor, where he struggled with sheriff’s deputies and was bitten by a police dog.
He was hospitalized for treatment of dog bites and a possible overdose of over-the-counter painkillers, court records show.
Sara Barrett had sought numerous protection orders against her husband, saying he abused and threatened her. She also recently filed for divorce, a fact known to Tony Barrett, prosecutors wrote in charging papers.
“Sara and Barrett’s current girlfriend had communicated over the week prior to the murder,” court records show. “Sara told Barrett’s girlfriend that she was becoming increasingly afraid of Barrett.”
Detectives used interviews, video surveillance and other evidence to piece together a timeline of what they believe were Sara Barrett’s last few hours alive:
About 2 p.m. Wednesday, she left early from her workplace in DuPont to pick up her son in Longview. A white van pulled next to her car in the parking lot, and someone from the van climbed into her car, which then drove away.
Detectives have determined that Tony Barrett had bought the van a few days before.
Forty minutes later, the car returned to DuPont, and Sara Barrett and another person got out and entered the van through the passenger door. The van then drove off.
About 4:45 p.m., Tony Barrett checked in to the Motel 6 in Tacoma. Half an hour later, he bought fast food at a nearby restaurant.
An hour after that, video surveillance shows the white van entering the parking lot of the Walmart on Mountain Highway. Shortly thereafter, a pickup belonging to Tony Barrett left the parking lot.
About eight hours later, authorities spotted Tony Barrett and gave chase.
Investigators later found blood inside Sara Barrett’s car and inside the white van. They also found a knife in the van, records show. Sara Barrett had gashes on her neck when her body was discovered.
Tony Barrett later told investigators he and his wife went to the motel, had sex and then got into a fight. He said she won the fight, and he left the motel, giving her $100 so she could take a cab to her car in DuPont, the records show.
“She was still breathing when I left her,” he allegedly told investigators.
Police said they searched his pickup and found notes to his family saying he’d done something bad and receipts for over-the-counter painkillers.
Outside court Monday, a relative of the couple said Sara Barrett’s death has hit the family hard.
“She was a loving mother, aunt, grandmother and friend, and to anybody who came into her house, she was ‘Mom,’” Jeremiah Spinharney told reporters. “She was one of the most caring and loving people ever.”Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644