A group of hunters who reported an illegal campsite in Atkinson and Gilmanton Academy proved key to finding the body of a 25-year-old Keene man, as well as the man charged with his murder and the woman who says she was forced to saw the victim’s head from his body.
Jonathan Amerault’s mother reported her son missing on Monday after he did not turn up for work. Amerault’s co-workers told police that a woman named Britany Barron had called out of work Monday and said she was going to find a new job, according to a state police detective’s affidavit. Office gossip had it that Amerault and Barron were romantically involved, though Barron was married.
One of Barron’s friends showed Keene police a series of troubling text messages from Barron. The messages said Barron would start over in New Mexico, and that she would not be able to see her children. Barron said she was trying to take some space from her husband and that she had told Amerault she couldn’t talk to him anymore. Barron would not tell her friend where she was.
Meanwhile, more than 200 miles north of Jaffrey, a group of hunters checking bear bait sites noticed an illegal campsite off Abbott Brook Road in Atkinson and Gilmanton Academy Purchase, north of the White Mountains near the Maine border. When the campsite was still there Tuesday morning, the hunters called NH Fish and Game to report it.
On Tuesday morning, after receiving the hunters’ report, state conservation officers went to the campsite. A woman walked out from behind the tent. The officers noticed her black eyes and bruises on her neck as they told her to clean up and leave, and she walked away from the campsite with the conservation officers.
“I’m in big trouble,” the woman said as they walked.
Then, officers noticed a tarp in the brook, wrapped around what looked like a body. The conservation officers called state police and handcuffed the woman, who identified herself as Britany Barron.
Under another tarp at the campsite, officers found Amerault’s gray Subaru. A state trooper waded into the brook to check out the object in the water. When he moved the tarp, blood poured into the water.
A medical examiner arrived and peeled away the top of the tarp. There was a body wrapped in the tarp, and the head had been sawed off.
Britany Barron’s statement
Britany Barron told state police her husband, Armando Barron, found out she was having an affair with Amerault on Saturday after he went through her phone.
Britany Barron said he came at her, hitting her face and her head and leaving her with two black eyes, a bloody nose and a chipped tooth. Armando put a gun in her mouth, Britany said. He put his hands around her neck and choked her until she passed out.
Late Saturday, Britany Barron said, Armando Barron used her phone to message Amerault, and the two met Amerault at Annett Wayside Park in Rindge.
At the park, Britany said Armando put a gun in her hand and ordered her to shoot Amerault, she told police. But she would not put her finger on the trigger. Armando told her to stomp on Amerault’s neck, Britany Barron told police, but she wouldn’t.
Armando pointed his gun at Amerault, Britany said, and told Amerault to get in the back of his car. Britany got in the driver’s seat of Amerault’s car and Armando rode in the passenger seat, she told police. Britany said Armando turned around and she then heard three gunshots. Two bullets hit Amerault’s chest and a third hit his head.
Armando told Britany to drive back to their house in Jaffrey and pack for a camping trip.
Britany drove Amerault’s car more than 200 miles north to Errol with Amerault’s body in the back of the car, as Armando followed in his Jeep.
At the Errol campsite, Armando ordered Britany to saw off Amerault’s head. She did it because she was afraid of Armando, Britany told police. She wrapped his head in a tarp, and buried it near the campsite.
Then Armando told Britany to wrap Amerault’s body in a tarp. On Sunday, they left the Errol campsite with Amerault’s headless body and drove north to Atkinson and Gilmanton Academy Purchase. They drove a quarter-mile off Abbott Brook Road on a logging road that led into the wood. The hunters first noticed the pair there on Sunday night.
Search in Jaffrey
Police in Keene and Jaffrey spent most of the day Monday trying to find Amerault and Barron after Amerault’s mother reported him missing, and neither Barron nor Amerault came to work Monday. Police met Armando Barron when he returned home to Jaffrey after 10 p.m. Monday. He told police he had dropped his wife off by the side of the road in nearby Temple, around 2 a.m. Sunday. State police reached Armando again by phone on Tuesday evening after Britney Barron spoke to investigators. Armando said he would speak to police in Jaffrey but he never came to the police station.
State police in Coos County pulled Armando Barron over on Wednesday, with his 9-year-old daughter riding with him.
Armando was arrested and charged with the assault on Britany and was later charged with capital murder in Amerault’s death.
The capital murder charge exists for cases when someone knowingly kills another person while committing another crime, Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati said. He said Amerault’s death happened as he was being kidnapped, so the capital murder charge applies. The maximum penalty would be life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Britany Barron faces three charges of falsifying physical evidence. A judge denied her bail, though her attorney argued she should be released on electronic monitoring.
“In everything the state alleges she did, she did under duress. This started with her being beaten severely,” said Britany Barron’s lawyer, Richard Guerriero.
During the bail hearing Friday, Guerriero said Britany Barron has cooperated fully with authorities and has no known criminal history.
“In plain English, she helped solve this crime,” he said.
Homicide prosecutor Scott Chase said Britany Barron had multiple opportunities during the three-hour trip and in the woods to call for help. If released, he said, she would be a danger.