Metro Police said the time frame and proximity of crimes a Memphis convicted rapist is accused of led them to also scrutinize the former convict in Nashville’s most talked about unsolved criminal case — the disappearance of 9-year-old Marsha Trimble.
Jerome Sydney Barrett, 60, was arrested last week for the murder of Vanderbilt University student Sarah Vannatta Des Prez in February 1975 and police confirmed yesterday they are looking at any connection he may have with the disappearance of 9-year-old Marsha Trimble during the same time.
“The crimes Barrett has been accused of committing occurred in February 1975 — given the time frame and the proximity of Marsha Trimble’s disappearance, he would be looked at in that case as would anyone else,” said Don Aaron, Metro Police spokesman.
When asked if Barrett had been questioned regarding the Trimble case, Aaron said Barrett had declined to comment.
Barrett was brought in by police last Monday from Memphis, where he was living. Aaron said police had obtained DNA samples from him through a search warrant in mid-October that linked him in the Des Prez case.
“His arrest occurred after DNA samples were analyzed,” Aaron said.
It is not the first time Barrett has been accused of a crime. He was convicted in 1976 of the Feb. 17, 1975, rape of a Belmont University student. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison and was released in 2002.
The three cases occurred days apart. Des Prez’s body was found Feb. 2, 1975, and the Belmont student was raped Feb. 17, 1975. Trimble’s body was found later that month during the same year.
Detectives in Metro’s Cold Case Unit were not available for comment Wednesday.
Barrett was scheduled to be arraigned yesterday morning in Davidson County Criminal Court, but because his family is seeking private counsel, according to the county District Attorney’s office, the arraignment was moved to Dec. 12.
His is charged with first degree and felony murder of Des Prez, according to the Nov. 16 indictment from the state.
One Deputy District Attorney said the Des Prez family is happy to have some break in her case.
“Obviously it’s a tough time for them… they’re obviously happy that somebody may be brought to justice… it opens a lot of old wounds at the same time,” said Tom Thurman, Deputy District Attorney prosecuting the case.
Thurman said there are always problems when prosecuting cold cases such as finding witnesses from several years ago.
Barrett has been fighting his original conviction for the rape of the Belmont student for years while in prison claiming his court appointed attorneys were not performing their duties and witnesses were not called that could have provided him an alibi for the evening of the crime, according to court documents.
Court documents also show that Barrett was a military veteran and placed on the Temporary Disability Retirement List in 1971, ultimately undergoing a mental evaluation that showed he had “schizophrenic reaction, anxiety and depression,” according to medical records.
In November 1972, doctors ruled he was unfit for military service, but that he was “not dangerous to himself or others.”