Barnhill murder trial set to start Monday

By Holley Nees - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Melissa Kesinger Barnhill's death was witnessed by her two small children. Her estranged husband, Kyle Barnhill, is set to be tried Monday for her murder.

Kyle Barnhill told KTRE in an interview that he is responsible for his wife's death, but the Nacogdoches District Attorney said this case is far from over.

The trial is set to start Monday after jury selection, but the defense has filed a motion for a change of venue based on pre-trial publicity. The prosecution said they don't buy it. The judge is expected to rule on that motion Monday, but for now, both sides are preparing to try a murder case that has left two children without a mother.

A bullet through the kitchen window into Melissa Kesinger Barnhill's neck is what caused her death. Her estranged husband admitted he killed her.

"Did you kill Melissa Barnhill or have anything to do with her death?" asked KTRE Reporter Jena Johnson back in March.

"Yes. I did," Kyle Barnhill responded.

"I think that any time a defendant admits their guilt or admits that they had some part in an offense, it takes away one question in the jury's mind," said Nacogdoches County District Attorney Nicole Lostracco.  "So that's always of an assistance to the state."

However, Lostracco said a confession from Kyle Barnhill alone is not enough to close the case.

"In any given case in the state of Texas, whether a defendant talks to law enforcement or not, the defendant always has the right to plead guilty or not guilty," explained Lostracco.

The state still has to prove the crime happened in Nacogdoches County, that Nacogdoches County is in Texas, that the incident happened on or about March 11, 2009, that the person was in fact killed, the way the person was killed, and who committed the offense.

Even with a confession, the state is left with a lot to prove in the upcoming murder trial.

"The reason he is not charged with Capital Murder is the offense committed did not fit the requirements the law puts upon us to charge someone with capital murder,"Lostracco said.

"Honestly, we didn't have any of those requirements fulfilled in this case which has amazed many people, but sometimes that's just the way it goes as unfortunate as it may feel," said Lostracco.

If the jury convicts Kyle Barnhill he could have a lifetime to think about the life he confessed to taking and the children he left without parents.

"The Barnhill case is a first degree murder, so he's looking at between 5 years and 99 or life in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice," Lostracco said.

Due to the nature of the offense if convicted, Kyle Barnhill will have to serve half of the sentence he gets before being considered for parole.

"Success to me is a guilty verdict and success to me is the sentence that the fair and impartial jury considers appropriate for the circumstances," Lostracco said.  "That's a win for the state in my opinion."

"At the end of two weeks, what's going to be success for me is being able to try the case in Nacogdoches County," Lostracco explained further.  "This is where it occurred and I think these are the people that should be able to decide what happens to people that commit offenses in our county."

The defense attorney Bill Agnew declined to comment until the trial is over.  There is two weeks scheduled for this trial and we'll be at the courthouse bringing you the latest.  You can log onto to get updates throughout the day and we'll bring you full coverage on the East Texas News.

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