A man sentenced to 60 years in prison for murder today said he was wrongly convicted by a ‘hair.’
Actually, Joseph Wayer, III of Goshen said just two of his hairs were found on the murder victim—his ex-wife Babara Sheppard who was stabbed to death in December of 2011 outside her place of employment—Low Bob’s Tobacco on Lincolnway East in Mishawaka.
Wayer spent about a half hour on the witness stand today proclaiming his innocence. He finds it unbelievable that a woman who was fighting for her life only managed to grab two of his hairs.
“Well, there were two hairs, two of the hairs were associated with him according to the forensic scientist, there are a variety of ways that can happen. You have to remember that when she was found she was in a puddle of mud along with her blood,” said St. Joseph County Deputy Prosecutor Ken Cotter. “Those hairs could have very easily could have been left on the ground there.”
In the end, Wayer got a 60 year sentence, which was just five years shy of the maximum. The victim’s family got a chance to turn the page. “It’s been a year and nine months, my family is finally able to start remembering Barbara for who she is and not what was done to her,” said Barbara Sheppard’s cousin, Waneta Harrell.
While Harrell spent today punishing Wayer for his murder conviction, yesterday was spent celebrating the fifth birthday of the couple’s youngest child. “Alec, her youngest is five. We celebrated his birthday yesterday, kind of decorated the car, honked the horn as we went through town, make him the center of attention,” said Harrell. “So he liked that, but it’s difficult to look into their eyes and to know that they’re missing something that they’ll never really understand what they’re missing, it’s just a part of you that’s gone, you don’t get it back.”
Wayer’s sentence was enhanced due to the impact the killing had on his children, and due to the brutality of the crime. “She was cut more than one time, she was cut over 20 times around the head and neck area,” said Ken Cotter.
The motive for the murder is said to be divorce. The killing happened in December of 2011; just nine days after Wayer and Sheppard’s split was finalized. However, Wayer today said he didn’t learn about the divorce until after the start of 2012.
Wayer had posted some disturbing Facebook posts that amounted to threats against Sheppard. Sheppard had previously been raped and was afraid that the man convicted of the crime would find her and harm her. “He (Wayer) then sent a Facebook post that if you (Sheppard) don’t drop this divorce or give me the kids, then I’ve already been in contact with him (the man convicted of the rape) I’m going to give him your address,” said Cotter.
Wayer’s statement in court was today cut short by the judge who said she understood that Wayer was maintaining his innocence.
Wayer did ask the court to let him serve his sentence in the St. Joseph County Jail where he could visit his mother. Wayer said he has developed skin cancer on his arm but that he planned to refuse treatment and, “let the cancer take me.”