Mentally ill woman found not guilty by insanity in pastor’s shooting

After two trials and two convictions of guilty but mentally ill in the shooting death of a Southport pastor, the Indiana Court of Appeals ordered the trial court to enter a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity against the woman who admitted to the shooting.

In 2007, Jordan Ashbury, acting on the advice of Pastor Jaman Iseminger, told his mother, Lori Barcroft she could no longer live with him due to her strange behavior caused by her mental illness. About five years later, Barcroft snuck into Iseminger’s church and began shooting at him. Iseminger was later pronounced dead at a hospital. 

Jeff Harris, who witnesses the shooting but was not shot at, called 911. When officers arrived, they found Barcroft hiding under tall weeds and arrested her without incident.

While in police custody, Barcroft admitted to shooting Iseminger and disclosed a system of beliefs that were later diagnosed as schizophrenia, paranoid type, or delusional disorder, persecutory type. For example, she told officers that Iseminger had ordered her father to be smothered to death, while Jeb Bush had killed her grandmother and the Bush family and Iseminger together caused her grandson to become infected with a disease. She also claimed that she was a member of the Colombian mafia and that Iseminger had plans to kill her entire family.

Barcroft was found guilty but mentally ill after a bench trial in 2014, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case for a new trial in 2015. The case then proceeded to a second bench trial in 2017, when Barcroft once again asserted an insanity defense against charges of murder and a sentencing enhancement for the use of a firearm.

During the second trial, three expert witnesses determined Barcroft was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness at the time of the shooting.  But the Marion Superior Court once again found Barcroft guilty but mentally ill by relying on demeanor evidence. Specifically, the court determined Barcroft had a motivation for the shooting because Iseminger had advised her son to move her out of his home and that her decision to hide after the shooting showed she appreciated the wrongfulness of her conduct.

But Barcroft’s conviction was overturned a second time on Tuesday in the case of Lori Barcroft v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1704-CR-844, with Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Edward Najam writing for the majority of the divided court that under Galloway v. State, 938 N.E.2d 699, 708 (Ind. 2010), the demeanor evidence was not probative of her sanity at the time of the shooting.

“The demeanor evidence relied on by the trial court was of no probative value due to Barcroft’s lengthy history of a mental illness, which includes complex delusions, and because the expert witnesses took into consideration the demeanor evidence when they concluded that she could not appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct at the time of the offense,” Najam wrote for the majority joined by Judge James Kirsch.

The majority remanded Barcroft’s case for the trial court to enter a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity, but Judge Elaine Brown dissented and would have affirmed Barcroft’s conviction of guilty but mentally ill.

“Though it is undisputed that Barcroft is mentally ill, her demeanor, behavior and statements before, during, and immediately after the crime, are probative and supportive of a reasonable inference of sanity,” Brown wrote, pointing to the fact that Barcroft had been laying in wait for Iseminger and hid after the shooting.

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