Trial starts for third defendant in Everett school yard slaying

EVERETT — Donald Barker died chasing after his demon.

Barker, the proud father of a 10-year-old boy, battled a crack cocaine addiction, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matt Baldock told a jury on Tuesday.

Barker, 37, went through treatment and tried to stay clean, but his demon was sometimes more powerful than his best intentions.

He hated that part of himself, his aunt Jennifer Schorr told jurors. He never gave up trying to beat his addiction.

“The tragedy is where that addiction led him,” Baldock said. “The tragedy is that Don Barker crossed paths with this man, William Gobat.”

Gobat, 35, is accused of taking part in the Dec. 27, 2010 attack that killed Barker. The Everett man’s trial began Tuesday morning.

Defense attorney Jesse Cantor told jurors that his client was present with two other men during the attack and even fought with Barker at one point. Gobat, however, didn’t take part in the assault that caused the fatal injuries, Cantor said.

“What also is a tragedy is the state of Washington is accusing and charging Mr. Gobat with Barker’s murder,” Cantor said.

He told jurors that prosecutors are “over charging” Gobat with a crime he didn’t commit.

Codefendant Jimmy Ruiz pleaded guilty last week to second-degree murder with a deadly weapon. He faces more than two decades in prison. A third suspect, Patrick Griffiths earlier this year pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery. He is expected to testify today.

Cantor told jurors that the evidence will show that Ruiz stabbed Barker, and Griffiths, who had blood on his shoe, likely kicked the victim in the head.

“No one is going to testify that Mr. Gobat did anything to cause the death,” Cantor said.

A dying Barker was found outside Madison Elementary School in Everett. He’d gone to there to buy drugs from a young woman. Instead, prosecutors allege that he was attacked during a robbery attempt. Barker died from a fatal punch or kick to the head and a deep stab wound to the liver.

Jurors on Tuesday heard emotional testimony from the two people who answered Barker’s calls for help.

Joshua Brislin, who lived nearby, told the jury that he was summoned by his wife’s friend, who had heard someone crying for help outside the school yard. Barker was bleeding from his nose and ears. Brislin screamed for his wife and her friend to call 911.

Brislin recounted his brief conversation with Barker.

“He said he was jumped by a few guys. He said he was hurt bad and he loved his mom,” Brislin said.

Barker’s family, seated in the courtroom, gasped and wept at hearing the slain man’s last words.

Norene Vit, who had first heard Barker, explained how she had rubbed his back and reassured him that help was on the way. Vit wept as she recounted how bloodied and battered the man’s face.

“I took a step back. I was shocked,” Vit said. “This was someone’s child.”

Barker’s mother followed Vit out of the courtroom to offer her thanks to the woman. Donald Barker was her child.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463;

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