Jury finds Barbour guilty of 14 feloniesPublished 9:22am Tuesday, September 8, 2009
CASSOPOLIS – Stolen property was spread across the floor of Cass County’s Circuit Court earlier this week as Douglas Barbour went to trial on conspiracy, stolen firearms, methamphetamine, stolen property and other theft-related charges.
The array in front of Judge Dodge’s bench included shotguns, chain saws, roofing equipment, drills, power tools, valuable coins, money, antiques, jewelry and other items.
Physical evidence was augmented by pictures, records and the testimony of more than 30 witnesses and victims, including a Cass County commissioner.
Cass County deputies worked hard for many months to prove what they believed – that Barbour was at the epicenter of more than 30 break-ins, and even methamphetamine activity in southwest Michigan and northern Indiana, during 2006 and 2007.
A Cass County man and his wife testified that during Barbour’s sway they were broken into on 17 separate occasions.
The investigation revealed that goods were stolen from and disposed of at locations including Cassopolis, Vandalia, Elkhart, Niles and South Bend.
And Thursday afternoon, at the conclusion of a three-day trial, the jury agreed.
Jurors found Barbour guilty of 14 felony counts and one misdemeanor offense.
The 14 felony convictions included conspiracy to conceal stolen property, concealing stolen property, stolen firearms concealment, felony firearm charges, conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine, delivery of methamphetamine, conspiracy to break and enter and attempted breaking and entering.
The jury also found Barbour not guilty of six methamphetamine delivery counts. Barbour now faces up to 22 years in prison.
The defendant was also sentenced on March 30, 2009, in Elkhart, Ind., for felony theft charges.
After the verdict was read, Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz, who tried the case, stated, “Douglas Barbour has caused great pain to the Michiana community. But his day has come.”
Fitz added that “Barbour was the catalyst for dozens of break-ins. He distributed methamphetamine and released stolen guns into the criminal underworld. His theft ring plagued our area for many months.”
At trial Fitz produced evidence revealing that in 2006 and 2007 Barbour routinely accepted stolen guns, power tools and other items at his garage lair overlooking the south end of Birch Lake. The address of the garage and home was identified as 14826 Walden Lake Road.
Testimony proved that Barbour benefited from the assistance of at least four male adults, including Ron Eash, Loren Beckwith and James Hance, as well as one female juvenile.
Diamond Lake area homes, a Cassopolis business, Birch and Shavehead Lake residences and even Edwardsburg United Methodist Church were broken into to procure stolen property – particularly power tools.
Barbour was also shown to have stripped a Jeep Cherokee of parts at Northside Auto in Elkhart, Ind. He then took the parts to his 14826 Walden Lake property, where they were later discovered by Cass County sheriff’s deputies.
When Cass County deputies, Cass County Drug Enforcement Team (CCDET) members, FBI agents and ATF officials raided Barbour’s property on Feb. 20, 2007, they found a treasure trove of stolen guns and other stolen items in his garage.
Also found were evidence of e-Bay and pawn shop transactions.
The investigation revealed that Barbour later sold much of the property at pawn and second-hand shops in Niles, South Bend and Mishawaka.
Police evidence also showed that the defendant likely employed e-Bay to unload some of his hot goods; e-Bay officials cooperated and assisted in the investigation.
After months of persistent investigation, Cass County detectives were also able to establish that Loren Beckwith was one of the persons who stole and provided property to Barbour.
His testimony revealed that the two of them routinely smoked methamphetamine and sometimes used it as currency for stolen property transactions.
A meth pipe was also found in Barbour’s garage safe at the time of the Barbour property raid.
On Feb. 23, 2007, and May 21, 2007, police found more stolen property at the defendant’s address, including property from Northside Auto in Elkhart.
CCDET Detective Dave Toxopeous testified that meth players transact heavily in stolen property.
Fitz indicated that “trafficking in stolen property is a huge problem. My office will not tolerate it. This verdict makes it clear that stolen property offenders will be dealt with harshly.”
Diamond Lake Island vacationers and others testified to the devastating impact this round of criminal activity had on their properties and lives. Homes were boarded up, rodents infested summer cottages, commercial buildings were terrorized.
Cass County Commissioner Bill Steele also suffered from the defendant’s efforts. Testimony showed that Barbour and Eash caused significant damage to the sides and door of Steele’s barn as they tried to pry their way in.
Due to earlier Steele reinforcements, however, they were unable to complete their intended crime.
After accepting the verdict, Cass County Circuit Court Judge Michael Dodge revoked Barbour’s bond.
Barbour remains in jail pending a sentencing date of Oct. 23. Fellow offenders Eash, Beckwith and Hance have already been convicted and incarcerated on related offenses.
The female minor is in a juvenile facility under the supervision of Cass County Family Court.