The Ventnor woman accused of killing her mother and grandmother was on drugs and mentally unstable when she gave a statement to detectives after her arrest, according to a motion filed by her attorney.
Heather Barbera is accused of fatally beating 67-year-old Michelle Gordon and 87-year-old Elaine Rosen last year inside the Vassar Square condominium they shared.
Barbera was arrested in New York on July 11, 2018, three days after her uncle found the two women dead in the hallway of the home.
But the “bizarre” statement she gave to detectives should not be used at her trial next month, attorney Matthew Leonard wrote in a motion to have the statement suppressed.
“It is beyond comprehension that detectives who are trained to observe a person and make a determination of their state of mind are unable to tell that they are dealing with a sick and broken woman,” Leonard writes.
Barbera tells detectives she had been using heroin with a prostitute while staying in a New York hotel, according to the motion. She says she went to the hospital for fear of overdose after an unidentified man she was using with “stopped breathing,”
“Barbera makes very little sense throughout the interview and clearly displays the signs of somebody that is heavily sedated, under the influence of CDS and also dealing with mental instability,” Leonard writes.
When asked if she knows what happened to her mother and grandmother, she first says no, according to the filing. But later answers questions as if she has told them she does know what happened.
While there are few details of the statement, Leonard does say that Barbera talks of “years of verbal and mental abuse at the hands of her mother, as well as a long list of family tragedies that have been endured.”
Leonard says it appears Barbera does initial the card with her rights on it after being read the Miranda, but he insists she was not coherent enough to understand. He also questions whether she understood the charges pending against her.
“For the detectives to state that they were not aware of Barbera’s intoxication is not credible, as a layman can tell right away from the video that Barbera is impaired,” he writes.
Leonard said Barbera’s and her family’s history of mental illness, the incoherent statement and hospital reports confirm she was suffering from some degree of mental illness.
Barbera was in court this week, pleading not guilty to a superseding indictment that added charges to the case, including felony murder, which is a death that happens during the commission of another crime.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Anne Crater previously told the judge more charges would be presented to a grand jury.
The motion to suppress is set to be heard Nov. 12, before Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury.