Barden gets 8 year active sentence in arson case, Mental health issues raised during trial
A Clarksville man was sentenced on Thursday to an active sentence of 8 years for an arson at a home and the vandalism of a business in Clarksville in October of last year. Daniel Watson Barden, who was charged with attempted 2nd Degree Murder, Arson of an Occupied Dwelling and three counts of Destruction of Property entered guilty pleas to charges of Attempted Second Degree Murder, arson of an occupied dwelling, destruction of property with intent to damage earlier this year. The additional charges were nol prosed.
Speaking before Judge Leslie Osborn on Thursday, evidence was presented that pointed to a long history of Barden’s mental problems, which had intensified in the weeks leading up to the October arson and vandalism.
Commonwealth Attorney Allen Nash called Susan Warren, one of the victims in the case.
Mrs. Warren testified that she and her husband had retired to Clarksville, buying a home on Ridge Road. She had realized a life-long dream, opening up a small gift and antique shop.
Shortly before 11:00 p.m. on the night of October 3, she had been watching TV when she heard “a thump” at the front door. Mrs. Warren woke up her husband who got his gun. The pair had looked out a window and saw someone moving around. The couple then heard “two large booms.” At first, she said, she thought they were gunshots but now know it was fire. Then, she said, someone was at the front door, trying to get inside. Her husband fired two shots into the door and she called 911. Authorities arrived about 25 minutes later and put out the fire.
The following morning she discovered that someone had broken into her shop, vandalizing the building doing major damage and destroying most of the contents of the shop.
Mrs. Warren said that she and her husband had decided that “Clarksville was not the place we should be.” The couple has since moved to Florida.
On cross-examination, defense attorney John Greenbacker, Jr. asked if there had been “a major blowout” between the Warren’s and Barden’s pest control business. Mrs. Warren replied that there had been a misunderstanding over a bill. She said that the couple had thought their bill for ongoing services was due in August and were notified that it had actually been in July. She said that her husband had gone to Barden’s business later that day and paid off the bill.
Greenbacker called Nancy Barden, Daniel’s mother to the stand. Mrs. Barden testified that Daniel moved back to the area in 1994 after his wife left him to raise three children. He had, she said, come back to the area because he knew his mother and father would help in watching the children. He went into the pest control business, she said, in 1998.
Greenbacker asked if she had noticed any bizarre behavior from her son. The first behavior that actually concerned her happened in 2007. Over the next few years, she said, there were several episodes and Daniel was on medications to help him. She had not realized, she said, that the medications had to be changed from time to time.
In the Summer of 2017, she said, she had thought things were going well but Daniel had called his daughter Adele and said he thought he was “going manic.” The hospital kept him for “five or six days” she said, which was not long enough. Still, she said, she had been pleased because he had recognized the problem and sought help. “I was astonished he he was arrested,” said Mrs. Barden. “I couldn’t believe the charges.”
Mrs. Barden said that she began receiving phone calls from Daniel’s secretary who told her he was spending great deals of money. When she went to see him, Daniel had not wanted to discuss it, she said, saying that he had investors and was going to have a lot of money.
She was also asked if she was aware of his presidential delusions involving the Illuminate or his increasingly heavy drinking or marijuana use, she said that she thought he might be smoking but never saw him do it.
Barden’s daughter Rita told the court that she had become aware of her father’s problems in 2007. She had not known he had been diagnosed with a mental disorder.
More recently, she said, her father who had always been frugal with money suddenly started spending large sums, saying that he had investors who were going to take care of the money.
In July of 2017, she said, she got a call from her father saying that he needed to go to the hospital because he couldn’t think straight. A psychiatrist recommended a hospital in Lynchburg and from there, he was sent to Baptist Hospital. He went in voluntarily, she said, but was held only a short time. He was at the time, she said highly delusional.
Patrick Gilliam, a friend of Barden’s since 2007, said that he had seen a big change come over Barden after his father became ill in 2012. Gilliam said that he knew his friend was on medications but when the mental problems starting becoming obvious, he had told Barden that he needed help. In 2017, he said, the problems had become even more obvious and Barden began talking about investors who where going to supply him money, how he began spending large amounts of money. Shortly before the arson-vandalism incident, he had received a note from Barden in which he called himself “Your Commander In Chief” and requested a report on a secret commando operation. A few days later, Barden told him about the arson and vandalism. Gilliam contacted the Sheriff’s Office but they were already aware of Barden.
Shawn Duggar, an employee of Barden testified that previously, with Daniel, “everything was about work.” “He wanted to expand the business.”
Duggar said that although Barden was frugal, he noticed that Barden suddenly was handing out money to people and spending a lot. He also said that Barden was drinking more. “First it was one or two beers, then it was 5 or 6 and he was leaving a bit more drunk. He added that Barden also talked about the Illuminati who had decided Barden would be the next President.
Despite the issues, Duggar credited Barden for helping him. “I loved working for Dan,” he said, “If wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here I am today.”
Vanessa Spencer, Duggar’s fiancee said that Barden had insisted she made a video for him where he announced that he had become president. “I didn’t want him to put it on the Internet but he insisted,” she said. The video was shown to the court and entered as evidence.
Carol Slaughter, office manager and Barden’s secretary, said that she had worked for Barden from March 2015 through August 17. She told the court that Barden has been a successful businessman and always very businesslike, until his lost interest in the business during the summer of 2017. “His finances went down big time,” she said. “He had about $32,000 and then, nothing. I don’t know what he spent it on,” she said. “I know he got that car. He paid $10,000 down on that Audi. Other than that, I don’t know.”
Slaughter said that Barden had not been taking money from the business until near the end. By then, she said, he was taking from it three or four times a day.
Asked if she was aware of any problems between Barden and the Warrens, she said that she had called the couple to let them know they were behind on several buildings. She said that Mr. Warren had come in later that day, throwing the money on the desk and canceling their service. She added that she had told Barden about it when he came into the office. It did not seem to bother him, she said.
Dr. Evan Nelson, recognized as an expert witness, told the court that Barden has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder with manic episodes with psychosis. While his condition had generally been under control, last summer, he said, Barden’s condition deteriorated rapidly.
Dr. Nelson said that an increase in alcohol and marijuana consumption further fed his problem and that there was nothing to suggest that Barden had been “faking” his illness.
At the time of the arson-vandalism incident, said Dr. Nelson, Barden was manic where energy and recklessness are extreme.
Despite the mental illness, Dr. Nelson said that “he was not insane under state standards.” He did add that being Manic Bi-Polar compromises the sense of judgement and patients stop weighing risks vs. benefits in a rational manner. “In that moment, somehow it made sense to him.”
Asked if Barden could revert to such a state, Dr. Nelson said that if Barden continued to take his medications it was unlikely. It was, however, possible.
Nash asked Dr. Nelson for his recommendation and Dr. Nelson said that in this area, options are limited because there are few resources in this area.
In his closing remarks, Nash said that the situation was a tragedy but while Barden is suffering from a mental illness, he could distinguish right from wrong. He asked pointed out that if Mrs. Warren had been asleep when the attack happened, Barden could be facing Capital Murder charges.
Greenback told the court that while he understood the Commonwealth’s position, the incident was a tragedy but giving Barden a harsh sentence would make it an even bigger one. Greenback said that Barden had not asked to have this mental illness and talked about the difficulty in getting proper mental health attention in this area and said that “this case calls out for change in the law.”
Addressing the court, Daniel Barden asked if there was a state institution that could take him in. “Seems like they would have a place where they could look after a guy like me,” he said.
The question sparked Judge Osborn to bring Dr. Nelson back to the stand to discuss possible options for help.
Prior to sentencing, Barden told the court that he was “truly sorry” for the incident.
“I wish I could go back and erase that day,” said Barden. “I was doing something I really wasn’t aware of at the time.” He added that it had taken him several days to even realize what he had done and said he had been “really screwed up.”
Barden told the court that he did want help. “I don’t want to lose the rest of my life in jail. I don’t think I deserve that.”
He added that he felt an institution could supervise him and insure that he took his meds.
“I want to try to make up for it,” he said, “If you can send me to a place that’s low security, I’m not a risk,” he said. “I worry at my age of being beaten up or raped. Please, help me as best you can.”
Judge Osborn agreed that the situation had been a bad one for everyone involved but pointed out that if Mrs. Warren had been asleep that night, he could be facing Capital Murder charges or that had Mr. Warren shot him, it would have been justified. “And that would have been a tragedy,” said Judge Osborn.
Judge Osborn said that the guidelines in the case did not take into account the mental issues involved but were something he had to take into consideration.
He added that while the mental issues were a factor, the damage done to the Warren family called for a higher sentence. He added, however, “I’m sure a jury would have given you more than I will. They wouldn’t have had the information I have.”
Judge Osborn sentenced Barden to ten years on the attempted murder charge with all suspended but five years, 20 years on the burglary charge with all suspended, on the damaging property, Barden was sentenced to five years with all suspended and on the charge of arson, Barden was sentenced to 40 years with all suspended giving a total sentence of 75 years with an active sentence of eight years to serve.