Cold case arrest spurs talk of 32-year-old Trimble case

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at 11:44pm

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.”

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By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The guy may be scum, but I remember the Marcia Trimble case like yesterday. The odds are 1,000 to 1 that this piece of crap had anything to do with the Marcia Trimble case. It appears the police are going to try to railroad this fellow. (Not that they have not done this in the past all over America) The IQ of every policeman should be public knowledge. (especially Detectives)

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

frank, if there is a DNA match, then no one will have been railroaded.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Frank, please calm down. Let's let the police do their work & demand full reporting of the results so that we can examine them. In the meantime, Barrett is, like the rest of us, innocent until proven guilty.

By: crackcitytn on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Let the police do their work? Hey, it's been over 30 years. I think people have the right to be upset. MJB, you would be I hope, if it was a member of your family.Over 30 years explains it all......

By: robbchadwick on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I doubt that he had anything to do with Marcia Trimble's murder as well. Certainly the police should examine any avaialble evidence; but the truth is that the authorities have known all along that several young juveniles in her neighborhood are responsible for her death. Unfortunately, it could never be proven. I doubt they can prove this either; and I hope they are not able to tack this murder onto another which they can prove just to close a cold case. Unfortunately, the police have been known to do this.

By: bem71957 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I too remember Marcia Trimble's case. It has haunted me to this day. If they can prove this with DNA, then that's great. I think they are just trying to cover all possibilities. I hate that her mother died without a resolution. I can't imagine living like that.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Point taken, Crack. I didn't know that you were well-schooled in detective work.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

For the record, Barrett is NOT like the rest of us, as the REST of us have not been charged, nor even suspected, of being involved with this, or any other case.The rule is that a unsolved case may be reexamined when another similar case has an arrest made, especially when it is from the same time frame. Long shot? Maybe, but after thirty years you gotta see if there is a possibility. I used to work with a guy that was arrested for the Trimble case, not once but twice. It is sad, but I don’t think that that case will ever be solved.

By: bfuller07 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I think Marcia Trimble's mom is still living, but her dad did die several years ago. I don't believe this Barrett guy killed Marcia either, the police know who did it , they just don't have the evidence to prove it. This case will never be solved, unless the killer confesses to it, which i doubt that will happen.

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Or if there is a DNA match.

By: Fundit on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Marcia's mom died a few years ago. We knew her.

By: IrisTN on 12/31/69 at 6:00

First of all Marsha Trimble's Mother is not dead. She was on the news two nights ago speaking about the case and how she is getting ready to move down to FL. She said it was the right time for her to move and the right time for the case to be solved. Closure all the way around.You must not have been in touch with her for awhile. I have know the Des Prez family since I was a child, and oddly enough one of my good friends used to live next door to the Trimble's and I used to go with her to Babysit Marsha and her little brother.Anyone that was a teen in 1975 and lived in the Green Hills area was interrogated by the Police, rightfully so. They ( the police ) continued interrogating us during the 80's, 90's and I even got a call about 3-4 years ago, along with everyone else that knew someone , that knew someone , etc. etc.Like I said , ironically I knew the Des Prez family...the ironic thing is, we all hung out together with them. So they got interrogated also for Marsha's case.Now they are saying that the guy that(might have) murdered their sister is the same person that we all got interrogated for Marsha's case.....pretty strange isn't it ?Just wanted to share my 2 cents .

By: rncong on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I thought several years ago they questioned the young man that lived near her again and tried to do DNA but said they didn't have enough to test. I would like to see the person or persons that did this come to justice but not an innocent just to close the case.