Calif. jury urges death in murders over paternity

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A California jury recommended the death penalty Friday for a man convicted of murdering his wife and her daughter after a paternity test showed he wasn’t the child’s father.

A Riverside County Superior Court jury returned the penalty-phase verdict against Michael Barbar, 55, after he was convicted last month of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife, Maysam Barbar, and her 6-year-old daughter, Tamara, in November 2009.

Michael Barbar had helped raise the child since birth but became suspicious after discovering his wife had three separate affairs, prosecutors said.

He pulled Tamara out of school and swabbed her cheek for a DNA sample while eating at a McDonald’s. When the paternity test showed the child was not his, Barbar spent eight days plotting the murders, district attorney spokesman John Hall said.

Barbar first strangled his wife with a computer cord as she was handcuffed and naked on the floor, prosecutors said, then went to Tamara’s room and tried to strangle her as she slept. When she struggled, Barbar bashed her head into the bedpost as many as 20 times, crushing her skull, prosecutors said.

Barbar was planning to kill his wife’s lover in Texas and flee to Lebanon but was stopped by police in New Mexico after authorities tracked his cellphone signal, according to evidence at the trial.

A check of his computer showed he had been searching for things like coffins and articles about well-known multiple murder cases, authorities said.

Barbar’s 13-year-old daughter Tarah testified that she heard her younger sister’s cries and her father marching up and down the stairs carrying garbage bags as she lay in bed the night of the killings. The next morning, she found her sister’s bed covered in blood and her mother’s room locked.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 16.

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