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Justices to hear insanity appeal in pastor’s fatal shooting

March 12, 2018

The Indiana Supreme Court will hear the state’s challenge of an Indiana Court of Appeals order to enter a not guilty by reason of insanity judgment for a woman who shot and killed a Southport pastor.

Lori Barcroft was previously found guilty but mentally ill for the 2012 shooting of Bethel Community Church Pastor Jama Iseminger. Barcroft shot Iseminger after her son, Jordan Asbury, had confided in the pastor about Barcroft’s deteriorating mental state.

According to the record in Lori Barcroft v. State of Indiana, 18S-CR-135, Barcroft admitted to police that she shot Iseminger. She later was diagnosed with 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.

Despite three expert witnesses who determined Barcroft was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness at the time of the shooting, 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.

Barcroft’s conviction was overturned a second time in December, with the Court of Appeals majority of judges Edward Najam and James Kirsch remanding to the trial for entry of a judgment of not guilty by reason of insanity. Judge Elaine Brown dissented and would have affirmed Barcroft’s conviction of guilty but mentally ill.

The case is one of 22 transfer petitions decided last week by the Indiana Supreme Court, and the only transfer petition granted. Transfer dispositions may be viewed here.

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