WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — The family of a 21-year-old murder victim received justice late Thursday after a jury found the young man’s 22-year old ex-girlfriend guilty of fatally stabbing him.
James Barry's family expressed satisfaction with the verdict.
It was difficult to see defendant Melanie Eam’s reaction as the clerk announced the verdict in court. Later, Eam could be seen wiping tears from her eyes.
The jury of four men and two women found Eam guilty of second-degree murder as charged.
“Justice was served for my son,” said Nicola Barry, victim James Barry's mother, who was at her home in the Loxahatchee Acreage where the stabbing took place. She testified during the trial.
“She did the crime and she’s going to pay the time,” she said. “We’re very happy this nightmare is over.”
This was the second time Barry’s family relived the tragedy by sitting through a trial.
At Eam’s first trial in September, another jury hung, unable to reach a unanimous decision on whether to convict Eam of the murder charge or the less serious count of manslaughter.
“We’ve spent the last 26 months, almost 27, in terms of waiting for this day,” James Barry Sr. said. “And we got what we were looking for. James was just an unbelievable child and unfortunately, we’ve lost him.”
Eam became enraged in November 2016 after James Barry broke up with her via instant message on a gaming app.
As in Eam’s first trial, her defense attorney, Bruce Lehr, tried to pin the killing on Nicola Barry's boyfriend, Guy Hand. He had compromised the crime scene, moving the murder weapon -- a butcher knife -- from the bedroom where James died back to the kitchen.
“I do not like being blamed for something that I didn’t do,” Hand said after the verdict. “It’s ridiculous.”
When asked if he felt vindicated by the verdict, Hand responded, “Yes, I do. I love it. I love it and I hope she does a lot of years.”
Judge Glenn Kelley set Eam’s sentencing on April 3. A second-degree murder conviction carries a potential maximum penalty of life without parole.
“This is a life sentence for us,” said Alexandra Barry, the victim’s sister. “This should be a life sentence for her and her family, no questions asked. There’s no bringing back my brother.”
Eam will likely appeal after her sentencing. Her attorney, Lehr, is expected to challenge the judge’s denial of his motion to suppress Eam’s statement to detectives prior to being arrested.
During the statement, Eam did not deny stabbing Barry, but she asked more than once for a lawyer.
Palm Beach County Detective Sean Oliver testified at trial that based on his training, he did not feel obligated to stop the interview since Eam was not in custody.