- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

The woman charged with killing her 6-year-old son — whose body was found bound in a bathtub in their apartment — confessed to the crime, police said yesterday.

At a preliminary hearing yesterday in D.C. Superior Court, D.C. police Detective George Taylor said Julia Barber, 27, admitted to her mother while in police custody that she killed Donmiguel Nathaniel Wilson Jr. on July 18.

Additionally, Miss Barber’s fingerprints were found on the duct tape police said they think was used to bind and choke Donmiguel.

Several used plastic gloves found in the bathroom near the boy’s body contained DNA from Miss Barber and her son, Detective Taylor said. There was no DNA evidence taken from the tape or gloves that would point to anyone else, he said.

The boy’s grandmother found his body in the water-filled bathtub of Miss Barber’s Southeast apartment. The Medical Examiner’s Office determined that he had been beaten, choked and drowned.

Miss Barber was admitted to a psychiatric facility the next day after being questioned by detectives.

Miss Barber, dressed in a blue hooded sweatshirt with her hair pulled in a loose ponytail, stared blankly while rocking back and forth slowly in her chair during most of yesterday’s hearing.

Her public defender, Santha Sonenberg, argued that Miss Barber’s confession to her mother during a break in her interrogation was not reliable evidence because of her mental state during questioning, which lasted more than 12 hours.

“It is obvious that some internal influences are operating while she’s being interrogated,” Miss Sonenberg said, citing Miss Barber’s erratic actions throughout the videotaped interrogation.

Aside from humming and talking and singing to herself, Miss Barber told authorities that she had made “spiritual love to a demon,” Miss Sonenberg said.

“She told [interrogators], ‘I’m tired, I’m hungry, everyone’s badgering me. … I’m on the verge of telling you whatever you want to hear so I can talk to my family.’ ”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Debrorah Sines called Miss Barber a “very intelligent and skilled defendant” who was manipulating authorities to avoid being charged.

Miss Barber began hearing voices and rocking back and forth during interrogation only when detectives doubted her stories, Miss Sines said.

“The only time she isn’t fine is when her lies and manipulation didn’t work,” Miss Sines said.

Miss Barber last month was found competent to stand trial.

Judge Judith E. Retchin found probable cause for Miss Barber to be tried on the charges. She will remain in the John Howard Pavilion, the criminal wing of St. Elizabeths Hospital.

“It is too early to tell whether her mental health factors are genuine or feigned,” Judge Retchin said.

A status hearing was set for Dec. 2 before the case goes to trial.

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