Missouri Supreme Court Case Number: SC81666
9/30/03 Reversed and Remanded – Life without Parole – PCC #1036512
2/19/02 – (Poplar Bluff) A judge has reinstated the death penalty for former Poplar Bluff resident Cecil Barriner. He’s been convicted a second time of murdering a woman and her granddaughter in Tallapoosa five years ago. The judge took the action after a jury found Barriner guilty in his second trial. Barriner got a second trial because the state supreme court ruled improper evidence had been allowed in his first trial.
12/27/2000 – (Jefferson City) The conviction and death sentence of Cecil Barriner was over-turned by the Missouri Supreme Court and a new trial ordered. The Supreme Court ruled that the judge in the trial should not have admitted evidence referring to conduct for which Barriner was never charged.
Audio: Oral arguments on appeal to Missouri Supreme Court
Text: Missouri Supreme Court Opinion
Case Facts: In December 1996, Barriner began to fear that he had failed a urinalysis test for the presence of controlled substances. Barriner was concerned that his probation would be revoked. Resolving to leave his residence in Poplar Bluff, Barriner planned to travel to the Tallapoosa, Missouri, residence of nineteen year old Candy Sisk and Irene Sisk, Candy’s seventy-four year old grandmother, to obtain money from them. Barriner had been in a relationship with Candy Sisk’s mother, Shirley Niswonger, from 1993 until 1996, and during that time had become acquainted with Candy. Barriner had accompanied Niswonger on at least two occasions when she traveled to the Sisks’ house to borrow money. Barriner believed that the Sisks were financially well-to-do.
Late in the afternoon of December 15, 1996, Barriner visited Daniel and Samantha Simmons, friends who lived only a few miles from the Sisk residence. Barriner told Samantha Simmons that he was going to Tallapoosa to collect some money and drove away in the white Ford Taurus automobile he was using for transportation. He returned shortly thereafter, stating that no one had been home. Daniel and Samantha Simmons then accompanied Barriner to Tallapoosa in the Ford Taurus, where Barriner passed by the Sisk house three times. During the drive, Barriner said that “the girl was going to pay him some money” and pointed to a note that he had left on the Sisks’ door. Samantha Simmons noticed that during the drive Barriner held and played with a purple Crown Royal bag that contained something that she could not see.
On December 16, at approximately 8:45 a.m., Candy telephoned her aunt, Debbie Dubois, and reported that a man had been to the house a short time before. Candy told Dubois that the man had told Irene that he had “a Christmas gift for Candy from her mother in jail.” Candy told Dubois that her grandmother said that the man had acted strangely, and that the same man had been in Tallapoosa the day before asking for directions to the Sisk residence. Candy reported that she had not seen the man herself, but had observed the man’s car, which was a white Ford Taurus. Dubois attempted to telephone a relative to ask him to check on Irene and Candy but was unable to reach him. Dubois then called Candy, told her she had failed to reach the relative, and instructed Candy to call her again if the man returned.
Several minutes after 9:00 that morning, a bank teller at a bank in nearby Risco attended to a man driving a white Ford Taurus. The teller saw Candy riding in the passenger seat, dressed in a nightgown and wrapped in a blanket. The teller saw another person in the rear seat. The driver gave the teller a check in the amount of one thousand dollars, signed by Candy and to be drawn on her account. After having Candy sign the required cash receipt, the teller gave the man one thousand dollars in cash, with one hundred dollars in twenty dollar bills, as the driver requested.
At approximately 10:45 that morning, Dubois attempted at least twice to telephone Candy and Irene at the Sisk residence. The telephone rang repeatedly, but no one answered. Dubois was concerned because one telephone line had an answering machine and because Candy, who had undergone back surgery four days before, was not supposed to leave the house for six weeks. Dubois drove to the Sisk house. There she found Candy and Irene dead. She tried to call the police, but, upon finding that the telephones in the house were missing, she drove to see a relative, who notified the authorities.
Candy’s body was on the bed in her bedroom. Her hands were bound in front of her with rope. She was unclothed below the waist. A pair of sweatpants and a pair of panties were on the floor nearby. Her neck had been slashed six to eight times. A knife protruded from her chest. An autopsy revealed that Candy bled to death from the neck slashes, and that the knife was thrust into her chest after she died. Several bite marks were identified on her body.
Irene’s body was on the floor of her bedroom next to the bed. She had been hog-tied, her wrists and ankles bound together with the same length of rope. An autopsy revealed that seventeen superficial stab wounds in a localized area on her left chest, five of which penetrated the chest cavity and lung, were inflicted fifteen to forty-five minutes before she died. Three deep slashes to her throat caused her death.
On December 18, two days after the bodies of Irene and Candy were discovered, Lieutenant Steven Hinesly of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Deputy Sheriff Scott Johnston of Butler County contacted Barriner at his brother’s home. Barriner agreed to accompany the officers to troop headquarters in Poplar Bluff to discuss the homicide. Barriner denied knowing that the Sisks had been murdered and denied killing them. Barriner claimed to have made trips to Cape Girardeau and two other towns on the morning of the murders to do some Christmas shopping. When Lieutenant Hinesly professed skepticism that Barriner could have traveled so far so quickly, Barriner changed his story; he then claimed that he was using methamphetamine at the home of Kevin Dennis when the murders were committed.