Part-1 of a two-part series featuring a True Crime murder-mystery story in Houston’s Bayou City.
Houston Texas: As fall season heads down south the feel of an occasional cool down brings forth much needed relief from the sweltering heat that ritually engulf the Lone Star State. With sizzling temperatures shooting up to 100 plus degrees in Houston ‘H-Town’ Texas, the fourth largest city in the nation, the upcoming fall was the coziest month in the year that merged between summer and the cold weather.
Although still hot, yet, at times, the onset of fall gradually juxtapose with the warm temperature. Finally when fall takes over, the sight of multi-colored leaves resemble works of art as they flutter down from the trees, landing softly onto the soil of the earth, to let the world know, a change in the weather is well on the way.
Houstonians welcome the eventual change.
On Saturday, September 12th 2009, gunshots in the dark on the South side of town cracked the air but without the thunderous roar of a shotgun blast; but the echo sound of the gunshots sounded more similar to a few ‘pop, pop, pop’ fireworks. When daylight swept across the atmosphere on Sunday, September 13th, the shooting simply marked another murder in Houston.
Downtown at 600 Travis street on the 6th floor of Houston Police Department Homicide Division was just another normal laid back Sunday morning as Detectives, awaiting for a call to hit the streets to investigate a murder, poured fresh coffee while poring over reports and answering calls from distressed citizens in need of making assault reports or have a vehicle released or inquire how to get a weapon returned to their possession.
A patrol officer contacted Homicide Division to report the discovery of a dead man found in a vehicle on the South side of Houston in an isolated area.
Around 9:am, Sergeant Homicide-investigator Myron Dillingham and Homicide investigator James C. Bonaby from HPD Squad 11, were dispatched to a scene at 14000 Mary Kay Lane. This particular location was a two-lane street in Southeast Houston that intersected with a cross street called Schumier, not far from Ray’s Livestock Auction. [Press Release]
Sergeant Dillingham, a Detroit native, is a tall, strong-built, brown-skin gentleman, with a military background. After a brief tour in the Navy between 1991-1993, Dillingham joined Houston Police Department as a patrol officer in 1995. Promoted to Sergeant in 2004,Dillingham finally transferred to the department’s elite Homicide Division. A proud father of two beautiful daughters, Dillingham is nonetheless described as a God-fearing man who is passionate about sports.
Dillingham’s partner, Investigator James C. Bonaby also served active duty in the Marines beginning July 7, 1981, and on July 27, 1985, Bonaby earned an honorable discharge. Inspired to keep serving his country Bonaby joined Houston Police Department in 1986; first working as a patrol officer and following a stint in patrol, Bonaby transferred to the department’s narcotic division during the crack cocaine era.
Bonaby worked high-level narcotic investigations with the police department and he worked as a deputized federal agent with DEA HIDA federal drug task force between 1987-1991.
After working narcotic cases ranging from street level dope operations and up to Colombian & Jamaican Drug Cartels cases; officer Bonaby was anxious to join the big league within Houston Police criminal investigation divisions. During late 1991, Bonaby got his wish when he was transferred to Homicide Division.
Both investigators were veteran police officers with much experience to bring to the table. These guys loved every intriguing moment of suspense in a Whodunit murder case. Bonaby and Dillingham understood that in Homicide cases the stakes were high. It took more than average police skills, it took a good brain, occasionally forensic evidence,common sense and good old fashion street smarts to outsmart criminal minds in order to find clues to catch a killer.
What made Houston Homicide Division a unique and enjoyable place to work for these investigators was the camaraderie and team work within the division and the close friendship the officers develop with fellow troops.
Making entry upon the scene Sgt. Dillingham spoke with patrol officer D.D. Valentine, first officer on the scene. “What we have here?” Dillingham inquired.
Officer Valentine directed Dillingham and investigator Bonaby to a vehicle parked on the street where they observed a deceased Black male slumped over on the passenger side of a white two-door, 2007 Tacoma pickup truck.
A license plate check showed the vehicle registered to a 52-year-old Perry Barefield, address 6219 Sanford Drive. Sanford Drive was located off West Bellfort in Southwest Houston.
It appeared the victim suffered a gunshot wound in the torso area.
Officer Valentine told both homicide investigators that he’d been dispatched to the location after a woman named Patsy Keef made a 911 call and said her tenant identified as Daniel Holloway found the dead man in the truck while walking to the store. Valentine told Dillingham that when he arrived on the scene at 8:45 AM, that he initially thought the victim “committed suicide.”
“I thought the guy committed suicide but after I searched the truck I didn’t find a gun,” Valentine opined.
Dillingham made a cellphone call to Ms Keef. He explained to her how urgent he needed to speak with her tenant Holloway who found the body.
“Have Mr Holloway to come back down here because I need to talk with him,” Dillingham told the woman. Ms. Keef agreed to relay the message to Holloway.
Daniel Holloway finally returned to the scene approximately 11:am.
Dillingham asked Holloway to give him a run down of how he happened to find the victim in the truck.
“I was riding my bicycle to the store this morning around 6:45 am – when I saw the white truck parked on the street. I didn’t pay to much attention to the truck initially. But on my way back from the store I looked into the truck and saw a black male slumped over on the passenger side.”
“Did you see anyone else in or around the vehicle acting suspiciously?” Dillingham asked Holloway. “No I did not,” Holloway said.
“Mr Holloway I thank you for your time and information; you can leave now,” Dillingham told the witness.
Crime Scene Investigation
Houston police CSI investigator A.D. Taravella arrived at the death scene at 9:55 AM to collect evidence related to the homicide. 14000 Mary Kay Lane was documented as an isolated, two-lane, dead end street, approximately 20 feet wide, with open grass fields on both sides, the ditches were infested with trash and rubber tires. In simple terms the dead end of Mary Kay Lane was a dumping ground where citizens dumped garbage, and where prostitutes plied their sexual trade with Johns, and also where criminals dumped stolen vehicles.
CSI Taravella spoke briefly with the homicide investigators and patrol officers. Taravella photographed the entire scene including the interior and exterior of the vehicle where the victim was found. Taravella stood a short distance from the truck and fired off numerous photos of the decedent.
The victim’s body was fully clothed in work uniform. His shoes were off. Investigators noticed the driver’s seat was pulled up closer to the steering wheel that suggested a shorter person had been driving the truck.
Recovered evidence consisted of the following:
- Two fired 380 shell casings were found on the ground just below the driver’s door
- A 380 shell casing that wasn’t fired was 33 feet north of the truck’s rear bumper
- No weapon recovered
- Keys were in the ignition
- A cell phone was clipped onto the decedent’s belt
Morgue workers removed the victim’s body from the truck and transported the decedent to Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.
Investigators had the truck towed to Houston Police impound lot to have CSI officers process it for clues. Recovered shell casings were also tested for fingerprints and DNA evidence.
Returning to Homicide Division Sgt Dillingham ran a computer check and found an incident report where Brenda Nelson, the wife of deceased Perry Barefield had filed a complaint against him for assault three months earlier. When Dillingham called Nelson number she answered. Dillingham calmly told the woman that her husband had been found dead. “What’s going on?” Nelson asked the officer in an emotional voice tone.
Nelson said she was at the Mykawa police substation already making a missing person report on her husband. Dillingham told Nelson that he needed to make a proper notification of death in person. Nelson agreed to meet with investigators the next day
On Monday, September 14, Sgt. Dillingham conducted the first in-person interview of Brenda Fay Nelson inside Room# 6 at Houston Police Department Homicide Division.
Dillingham cordially greeted Nelson, offering her a beverage drink and restroom privileges. Nelson declined both. Nelson told the officer she’d been working as an insurance examiner for approximately four years.
According to Nelson’s lengthy story, in 1972, she met Perry Barefield when they grew up together as teenagers in Lake Providence Louisiana. Both harbored a crush on each other but their lives split apart after Nelson and Barefield separately moved to Houston during 1980s.
The childhood couple dated briefly in Houston and soon departed before Barefield landed in prison. Once Barefield was officially released from prison and sent to a halfway house in 2002. He wasted no time seeking out his old burning flame, Brenda Nelson.
“Perry came to live with me and I helped him to transition into society.”
Dillingham listened patiently as Nelson revealed the intricacies of her life with the dead man. Falling in love again, the couple purchased a home in Southwest Houston in 2005, and subsequently, the couple married in September 2006.
Nelson further shed light of the burgeoning marital problems she had to deal with during her marriage.
“When (Perry) started cheating with other women I left home three times.”
“One of the worst incidents,” Nelson told Dillingham, “was when a woman named Melanie came to our home and said (she) been dating Perry since his release from prison while he worked at Sears & Roebuck.”
“So you felt bad about Mr Barefield cheating on you,” right? asked Dillingham.
Nelson, replied, “yes.”
Nelson explained to Dillingham how Perry often left home and wouldn’t “return home until the next day.”
Increasingly frustrated over Perry’s overnight habits, Nelson admitted she told Perry’s parole officer about his nefarious activities.
To circumvent these nightly jaunts, parole officer imposed a 7pm curfew for Perry to be at home.
“We’re on good terms now,” Ms Nelson, said in a soft tone voice.
“This is why things are so strange this time with Perry not coming home,” the bereaved widow, explained to Dillingham.
Perry Barefield Missing
Brenda Nelson further told Homicide investigators on the same day at the police station that on Saturday, September 12, 2009, the date Barefield went missing that she spent time with her sister-in-law whom she identified as Sandra Kay Bennett, the wife of Edward Bennett, Barefield’s brother. After dropping off Ms Bennett at her home around 3:30 pm, Nelson said when she got home, Perry was home.
“We started watching TV because I didn’t want to deal with the dogs because they were muddy,” Nelson, said. Dillingham nodded affirmatively. There was no reason to dispute her story.
“We ate dinner while watching – ‘Secret Lives of Bees.” Feeling weary, Perry drifted off to sleep on the sofa where himself and Nelson had been sitting.
“I woke Perry up about 8:pm – ‘and I told him – let’s go lay down.” According to Nelson, Barefield decided to visit the store to buy a Black & Mild, popularly known as a small- size cigar that people use to stuff marijuana into for a mild smoke. Nelson said her husband usually went to a convenience store on Bellfort street.
“Perry left the house around 8:pm to buy a cigar from the store. He only had a few dollars on him.”
When Perry Barefield failed to return home, Nelson assured investigators Dillingham and Bonaby that she started calling Perry’s phone between 8:30 pm and 9:pm.
“He never answered.” Nelson said.
“I thought this was strange because we were on good terms,” Nelson lamented.
Tired of waiting for Perry to return, Nelson said she laid down to sleep between 9:pm and 10:pm, awaking at 3:am on Sunday, September 13, 2009. Again, Nelson said she called Perry’s phone and got no answer. Worried, Nelson contacted Barefield’s family and told them he hadn’t came home the night before and nor had he answered his phone.
Investigators learned during interview with Ms Nelson that she first called her sister-in-law Sandra Bennett looking for her missing husband at approximately 8:am on Sunday morning, September 13. Edward Bennett, Barefield’s brother, told Nelson his brother wasn’t at his home nor had he been with him the night before.
Cynthia “Cyndi” Parker, Barefield’s niece, convinced Nelson to call 911. A dispatch operator informed Nelson to file a missing person report at Houston Police Department Southeast Substation on Mykawa road.
Dillingham questioned Nelson about who may have had a motive to kill Perry Barefield, Nelson replied, “I don’t know of anyone who wanted to harm Perry.”
“I understand what you going through,” Dillingham said, in a sympathetic tone. “I thank you for coming down and talking with us. It means a lot. We”ll probably want to talk with you again as the investigation progress.”
“I appreciate that; just call me,” Nelson said. Dillingham officially terminated the interview.
Harris County Medical Examiner Office reported to Dillingham that the victim Perry Barefield died as result of a gunshot wound in the torso and a second gunshot wound in the head.
Previous Murder in Perry Barefield’s Past
Could a previous murder in Perry Barefield’s past prove who murdered him?
Investigators developed a viable lead into Perry Barefield’s death, a lead deeply rooted into a previous murder that sent shock waves throughout Houston, 23 years earlier. Investigators identified the potential suspect as Ernest Lee Sonnier.
Detectives Jim Ladd, Ted Thomas and Johnny Moore at the time, discovered that on April 21, 1986, Sonnier, along with Perry Barefield and Perry’s brother John Kennedy Barefield, kidnapped, raped and murdered Rice University College Student Cindy Renee Rousanville on April 21, 1986.
John Kennedy Barefield confessed to police how Ernest Sonnier and Perry Barefield participated in the rape-kidnapping of the Rice College Student. Evidence showed after the men raped Rounsaville, they stood outside the car discussing whether they should release her. Horrified that she would suffer a terrible fate at the hands of her kidnappers, the girl jumped from the car and ran into a field where John Barefield caught Rounsaville. Without hesitation, he executed the cowering victim with a shot into her head.
Though Perry Barefield already been paroled in 2002 after serving a portion of a 45-years sentence for sexually assaulting the murdered college student, Ernest Sonnier was never convicted in the student’s death because police had no other evidence tying Sonnier to the murder other than the words of both brothers – Perry Barefield and John Barefield. John Barefield, the triggerman, was executed on March 21, 1997 by the state of Texas for Cindy Rousanville’s murder.
Somehow police tied Sonnier to a separate kidnap and rape of another woman, a case which netted Sonnier a life sentence in Texas prison.
Subsequent DNA testing in 2008 – proved Sonnier was not the person who committed the separate rape-kidnapping that landed him in prison for life. Harris County District Attorney Office did not oppose Sonnier’s release on bond pending further investigation to later determine whether to declare the convict’s actual innocence. If declared actual innocent the state would automatically award Sonnier $80,000 for each year he served in prison.
Once Sonnier filed for actual innocence this only led to a legal fight. District Attorney Office realize Sonnier was still a key suspect in the college student’s death because he was never prosecuted for his role in the murder primarily because the law prohibited the state from using only the testimony of the two brothers Perry and John Barefield unless the state had other independent evidence to corroborate the words of the Barefield brothers against Sonnier.
Therefore their next move was to circumvent Sonnier’s attempt to receive innocent compensation state funds by having a Homicide investigator to reopen the case and track down witnesses. Their best witness was no other than Perry Barefield who previously named Sonnier as the accomplice who helped him and his brother John Barefield to kidnap and rape the student before the younger Barefield blew the victim’s brains out.
Homicide investigator-Sergeant Brian Harris had been assigned by District Attorney Office to revive the capital murder case against Ernest Sonnier.
“I was scheduled to interview Perry Barefield about Sonnier’s involvement in the murder of the college student,” Sgt Harris told Dillingham and Bonaby. “I was told Perry could provide information without a doubt Ernest Sonnier was actually guilty of capital murder in Cindy Rounsaville’s death.”
Brenda Nelson, Perry Barefield’s wife, insisted to investigators Dillingham and Bonaby that her husband’s death was possibly tied to Sonnier because her deceased husband was scheduled to give a statement to the police about Sonnier’s involvement in the college student’s murder.
“Perry told me how a police officer had called him about Sonnier,” Nelson said.
Investigators speculated if Sonnier discovered Perry Barefield was planning to snitch on him for a second time on a murder charge the law wasn’t able to make stick in 1986, then a potential renewed charge that could put him back in prison and – further cut off the money the state was about to award Sonnier for the wrongful conviction on an unrelated kidnap and rape; it was conceivable for investigators to suspect that Sonnier had a motive to kill Perry Barefield.
“We felt this was a lead needed checked out because Sonnier was on bond for the case that he served all those years for,” Dillingham said to Bonaby and Sgt Harris – as they sifted through the accrued information.
This prominent lead fizzled when investigators contacted pretrial authorities. As condition of Sonnier’s bond, pretrial officers had placed a GPS tracker on Sonnier’s ankle until District Attorney’s office concluded their investigation of Sonnier’s actual innocence in the aforementioned kidnap and rape case.
The GPS tracker proved Sonnier was home when Perry Barefield went missing.
As the follow-up investigation continued into the death of Perry Barefield the investigators made inroads into Barefield’s inner circle of friends and close relatives.
Edward Bennett, Barefield’s brother, told investigators the last time he saw his brother alive was on Saturday, September 12, 2009, when Barefield dropped him off at home from work. Bennett further told investigators that Brenda Nelson called his wife Sandra Bennett on early Sunday Morning looking for Perry.
“I thought this was odd because any other time she couldn’t find Perry – she would call him herself much sooner,” Bennett said.
“Was things going well in the marriage between Perry and Brenda?” Dillingham inquired.
Bennett gave investigators the following story:
“They fought a lot concerning money and cheating. The cheating went both ways. Perry said he was tired of the relationship and that Brenda was planning on leaving him for the fourth time.”
Sandra Bennett, Perry Barefield’s sister in law, added impetus to her story when she told investigators that Brenda had picked her up on Saturday, September 12, 2009, just to ride with Brenda while she did her work as an insurance phlebotomist, drawing blood from people who need insurance.
While Brenda went into a work facility, Sandra said she was waiting in the car when Brenda’s cell phone rang. When Sandra answered Brenda’s phone a man’s voice said “Can you talk?” The caller identified himself as Jason.
“I told him that he needed to talk with Brenda.”
Sandra said when Brenda returned to the car she called Jason back. “I heard Brenda on the phone tell Jason – ‘I don’t know who he is.'”
Sandra Bennett said she felt wholly uncomfortable with the conversation that Brenda had with Jason on the phone. Brenda finally dropped Sandra off at home around 3:30 pm. She told Sandra she would go visit this Jason guy. Police suspected Jason Miller, was Brenda Nelson’s on-and-off boyfriend, because she previously told the officers that as recent as January 2009, she left her husband when she discovered his infidelity.
Detectives weren’t sure if Jason Miller was their killer but they still needed to talk with the gentleman since Nelson spoke about him and also that Sandra Bennett, Nelson’s sister-in-law, told investigators Miller was the person who called Nelson on her cell phone on Saturday, September 12th, the evening Barefield was last seen alive.
On September 15, Bonaby called Brenda Nelson to ask her to come back down to the Homicide Division for another interview while Dillingham utilized police database to locate Jason Miller parole status and home address.
Both investigators met with patrol officers in the 6400 block of Martin Luther King for a briefing prior to proceeding to Miller’s home where he lived with his mother at 5635 Canterway street in Southeast Houston.
Arriving at the Canterway address with patrol officers the homicide team met Jason’s mother, Dorothy Miller, at the front door. Dillingham asked if Jason Miller was home. “We need to talk to him,” Dillingham told Ms Miller. Jason Miller was in bed when the elderly woman led investigators into his room.
Dillingham went straight to the point. “Jason, we need to talk to you about the murder of Perry Barefield. You don’t have to give us a statement. But any statement you give must be voluntarily.” Miller agreed to accompany the officers to the downtown Homicide division to talk.
Patrol officers transported Miller, without handcuffs, to Homicide Division at 1200 Travis. By this time, Brenda Nelson had arrived for a second interview.
Inside the well-lit interview room Jason Miller declined to accept soda beverages or water. Dillingham asked Miller about his relationship with Brenda Nelson – and his whereabouts on Saturday, September 12th.
“I was with Brenda on Saturday night from late evening through early morning hours on Sunday, September 13.” Dillingham pressed Miller for approximate time and specific places where he spent time with Brenda Nelson. But Miller became evasive. Then, finally, Miller blurted out, “Whatever Brenda told you was the way things happened.”
“Jason, ‘all I’m doing is trying to get to the bottom of what happened to Perry Barefield’.” Dillingham said in a casual tone.
“Have I accused you of murder?” Dillingham asked Miller, trying to keep the man at ease.
Dillingham continued to question Miller. “How long you been in a relationship with Brenda?”
“I’ve always been in a relationship with Brenda even during her marriage to Perry.”
Dillingham shot a peculiar glance at Bonaby.
“Are you willing to take a polygraph?” Dillingham asked Miller pointedly.
Visibly nervous, Miller replied, “No I do not. I don’t want to talk about no murder with you all,” Miller insisted.
Miller abruptly recanted his statement about spending the night with Brenda Nelson, and said he couldn’t remember where he was. “I was drunk, full of Hennessey whiskey.”
After dealing with Miller’s selected memory and his refusal to take a polygraph test the police managed to sway him to give a DNA sample for future forensic testing.
Patrol officers transported Miller back home on Canterway where he signed a consent form allowing Dillingham and Bonaby to search for evidence in his bedroom and to search the dark-colored Yukon SUV that he drove.This particular vehicle registered to Miller’s other girlfriend Bertha Gonzales. No weapons, shell cases, or anything of evidentiary nature were found.
Meanwhile Brenda Nelson gave a second and then eventually a third recorded interview to Dillingham and Bonaby. “I need to clear up inconsistencies in your first statement and to verify information given by other witnesses,” Dillingham spoke calmly.
Brenda Nelson pretty much reiterated the similar details she already gave to investigators on September 14th. Specific details Nelson interjected this time only heighten the investigator’s suspicion. Nelson recalled how she dropped her sister-in-law off at home on September 12th, then she said she drove to Jason Miller’s home and returned to her home on Sanford street around 5:PM.
Here are the new details Nelson added into her second statement on September 15th – that she didn’t tell investigators about on September 14th:
- Nelson said when she made it home around 5:PM that herself and Barefield used his truck(she was driving) to drive the dogs around the neighborhood.
- That when Perry Barefield hadn’t returned home after he’d left the house at 8:PM – that she got into her car at 9:PM and drove around the Astrodome-610 area to look for Barefield’s truck.
- Nelson said she called Gwendolyn Madison while driving around looking for Barefield and that she subsequently visited Madison home. Nelson did not provide an address for the woman she identified as Gwendolyn Madison.
- Nelson claimed she returned home approximately 9:30 PM – on Saturday, September 12th 2009 – and that she never left home again.
- Previously in Nelson’s first statement she told police that when she got home on September 12, that she didn’t feel like messing with the dogs because the dogs were muddy.
Following the conclusion of this second statement, it was a statement similar to the first statement made by Nelson. But now the second statement was added with details not previously mentioned the first time. Investigators felt uneasy about Brenda Nelson because she could be the killer they were looking for. Many questions boggled their minds.
What if the tragic events that happened to her husband caused the woman’s memory to forget certain details, details that may appear suspicious but really weren’t vital to Dillingham’s and Bonaby’s investigation.
A report from the crime lab found no incriminating evidence in the victim’s truck to identify a suspect nor did CSI investigators find DNA or fingerprint evidence smeared on the discharged shell casings recovered from the murder scene.
After exhausting these possible leads, Dillingham and Bonaby were back at square one. Pure instinct led the Detectives to suspect the killer or killers responsible for Barefield’s death was someone he knew very well.
During earlier phase of the investigation the officers uncovered evidence from Barefield’s relatives that his wife Brenda Nelson had threaten to harm her husband. And furthermore she told Barefield’s niece Cynthia Parker that she would allow their house to go into foreclosure and that her and Barefield would go separate ways.
Detectives realized that a tumultuous marriage between a couple didn’t always prove the other spouse murdered the other.
“Whoever was with Perry Barefield he felt comfortable enough with them to have his shoes off and he had no underwear on,” Dillingham suggested to Bonaby.
“Since Perry’s wife said he messed around with different women then maybe someone decided to rob him,” Bonaby stated.Or someone had it in for the guy in a bad way.
Realizing the deceased victim Perry Barefield wasn’t a faithful husband, according to Brenda Nelson, Sandra Bennett and her husband Edward, investigators tracked down women that Barefield had been intimate with.
Anitra Kone vividly recalled to investigators that she’d been romantically involved with Barefield earlier that year in January during the same period when Brenda Nelson had left Barefield to live with Miller. Barefield told Kone he was separated from his wife.
Kone said while riding with Barefield in his truck that she met Brenda Nelson during evening hours when Barefield stopped at the home that he shared with Nelson on Sanford street. While sitting in Barefield’s truck Kone said Nelson arrived and parked her vehicle behind Barefield’s vehicle. Kone said Perry’s wife approached the truck and threatened to “Fuck her up.”
“Didn’t you tell police in the report you filed about the incident that Brenda said she would kill you and Perry?” Bonaby asked Kone. “I don’t remember Brenda saying I’m going to kill (you) and Perry, but, ‘if I told the police that, then I said it.'” Kone told investigators she had no idea who murdered Perry Barefield.
Investigators continued to track down women that Barefield had been involved with.
Melanie Lafleur told investigators she met Barefield at a tire store five years ago. “We became romantically involved; we went out to eat and entertained at my home.”
Lafleur further told the police how Barefield convinced her that he was divorced until she finally visited his home. “On the way to work(one morning) I saw a car in Perry’s driveway and I stopped and knocked on the door. Nobody answered.” While traveling back to her home during evening hours the woman stopped again at Perry’s house. During this visit Brenda Nelson answered the door, telling Lafleur that she was not divorced from Barefield.
Disappointed she’d been lied too, Lafleur and Nelson had an amicable conversation about Barefield.
“She said Perry had been verbally abusive to her and that she had moved out,” Lafleur told investigators. Perry returned home and Lafleur criticized Barefield for lying about being divorced and being abusive towards Nelson.
“When was the last time you was with Perry?” Dillingham asked Lafleur.
“I’ve haven’t seen Perry since January 2009.”
Lafleur assured the officers that on September 12, that she was at the Southwest Trail Riders Association property on Anderson road.
“I did not have anything to do with Perry Barefield’s murder.” Dillingham terminated the interview and thanked the woman for her time..
Near end of September, Homicide investigator Dillingham received an important call. A Nationwide Insurance representative identified as Angie Septor informed the officer that Perry Barefield’s life had first been insured for $150,000, but the coverage had been increased to $300,000!
“Who’s the beneficiary?” Dillingham asked hastily.
“Brenda Fay Nelson,” the rep answered.
“When was this policy issued?”
“Looks like August 7, 2009.”
The rep said Brenda Nelson filed a claim for the $300K on the following dates:
- September 25, 2009.
- October 7, 2009
- October 8, 2009
Brenda Nelson wanted to get paid the insurance money, Ms. Septor told Dillingham.
“She’s gonna be my suspect in the murder of Perry Barefield,” Dillingham told the insurance employee.
Dillingham thanked the insurance rep for calling and he promised to contact them once the investigation was over.
Despite Nelson’s repeated efforts to collect on Perry Barefield’s policy the insurance company refused to pay pending the results of the investigation into Barefield’s murder.
Although Nelson had previously told Dillingham that herself and Perry had insurance policies but still the investigators hadn’t fully questioned the amount nor the time frame of when the policies were purchased. Nor did they know how long Perry’s policy had been increased to $300,000 – before he was murdered.
“Brenda Nelson has a $300,000 policy on Perry Barefield’s life,” Dillingham told Bonaby. Bonaby was delighted to hear the news.
“Get this, Bonaby,” Dillingham added.
“The policy was taken out on August 7, 2009, – ‘only one month before he was murdered.'”
Bonaby suggested, what if the policy might be a coincidence.
“I don’t think so,” Dillingham replied.
“There’s too many inconsistencies in her stories that she has given us.”
Both investigators realized despite their growing suspicion about Brenda Nelson they needed evidence to prove she murdered Perry Barefield or at least had someone to do the job for her. Police were astounded to learn Nelson increased her husband’s life insurance from $150,000 to $300,000, approximately two weeks before he was found murdered. Many things surrounding Brenda Nelson didn’t quite add up.
As a paroled sex offender the deceased victim was assigned to State Parole District #6 in Houston. Police needed much background information about Perry Barefield. They needed to know if Barefield mentioned to his parole officer Tonya Bowman about anyone he feared or if was having problems with someone.
Investigators met parole officer Bowman at her office located at 10100 Northwest Freeway. Bowman said she visited with Barefield three or four times with a month and that Barefield’s curfew away from home was between 7:AM and 7:PM.
“Brenda Nelson, Mr Barefield’s wife, ‘called most times when they were having marital problems,'” Bowman told police.
Bowman continued her statement about the couple.
“Both Perry and Brenda said things were better after Brenda filed an assault charge against her husband on June 25, 2009.” Bowman rescinded a parole warrant against Barefield when Brenda confessed to Bowman that she lied about the assault.
“Ms Brenda Nelson called my phone on Sunday, September 13, 2009, and she said Perry was found dead on the Southeast side of town,” the parole officer said.
Particularly interesting to investigators was the story Nelson shared with Bowman about Earnest Sonnier, Barefield’s partner in crime in the rape and murder of Rice College student Cindy Rounsaville in 1986.
“Brenda said the cops came over to their home to talk with Perry about an old case, a case that could put a guy(presumably Ernest Sonnier) back in prison,” Bowman recalled to the investigators.
Things got very sticky with Dillingham and Bonaby when Bowman revealed a clue that set off an alarm that wouldn’t stop ringing throughout the duration of the investigation.
Brenda said the police talked with Barefield on Friday, September 11, 2009, (only one day before Barefield was found murdered.) “She said Perry was supposed to have spoke with police in person the next day.”
Evidence later proved before Sgt Brian Harris could actually interview Barefield about Sonnier, Barefield was, in fact, murdered. Harris had never previously talked with Perry. Investigators knew the story that Brenda gave Bowman was a bald-face lie!
Bowman shared another interesting story.
“Brenda said Perry was killed on Saturday, September 12, 2009, and found by police on Sunday morning, September 13.”
Homicide investigators expressed their appreciation to the parole officer for her information. While riding back to Homicide Division, Dillingham and Bonaby were animated about what they uncovered. “How would Brenda Nelson know Perry Barefield was murdered on September 12th?” Dillingham queried.
“He could’ve been killed on the 13th instead of the 12th,” Bonaby answered. “You’re right,” Dillingham agreed.
How would Brenda Nelson know the specific date when her husband was murdered unless she was there when he was killed.
William Leon Clark told police that when he arrived home on Schumier street from Ray’s Livestock Auction on Cullen around 9:55 PM – on Saturday, September 12th, that he saw the white truck parked on Mary Kay Lane near the dead end. Clark said when he left home very early that Sunday morning he noticed the truck was still there.
Clark’s time frame of 9:55 PM when he noticed the victim’s vehicle on Mary Kay Lane on Saturday night suggested to investigators that Barefield was already dead in the truck.
Another tense moment occurred between Perry and Brenda when family members visited the couple’s home on labor day to have dinner, according to Perry’s niece, Cyndi Parker. Cyndi often played the role of marriage counselor when her uncle Perry and his wife Brenda were having problems. Cyndi and Brenda were close friends.
“My husband said he heard Brenda tell my uncle Perry that she would have him done away with,” Cyndi Parker told investigators. Edward Bennett, added information that gave the officer’s adrenaline a jolt.
“Perry said Brenda kept pressuring him to sign insurance papers,” Bennett revealed. Bennett said Perry told him that he asked Brenda, “Are you expecting me to die soon?”
Investigators worked hard to build a murder case against Brenda Nelson.
To be continued … in Part 2.