"It should have been life," said Barbera Rosen's uncle, who found his sister and mother dead in 2018

By Chris Harris
January 10, 2020 10:56 AM
Heather Barbera
Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office / Ventnor City Police Department

A 43-year-old New Jersey woman learned Thursday she will spend the next 42 years in prison for the 2018 bludgeoning deaths of both her mother and grandmother.

The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office confirms in a statement that Heather Barbera was sentenced Thursday for beating her mother, 67-year-old Michelle Gordon, and her grandmother, 87-year-old Elaine Rosen, to death with a nightstick in their Ventnor City boardwalk condominium on July 8, 2018.

Barbera then fled to New York City with credit cards and money she stole from the victims, the statement explains.

In October, she entered guilty pleas to single counts of first-degree aggravated manslaughter and first-degree murder.

Barbera, who has two children, moved in with the victims in 2018, at a time when she was unemployed. The murders followed a heated argument involving all three.

The Philadelphia Inquirer was present for Thursday’s proceedings, and reports that Barbera apologized in a soft, muffled voice before Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury announced her sentence.

During the sentencing hearing, DeLury said Barbera had been “exceedingly violent” and that her “depravity” was “palpable,” according to the paper, which also quotes prosecutor Allison Eiselen as saying, “There is no more heinous, cruel, or depraved a crime than killing one’s own mother and grandmother.”

In the statement, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said the case “illustrates that domestic violence and the disease of addiction impacts so many families in all of our communities. The defendant singlehandedly altered the course of her entire family by taking the lives of her mother and grandmother. As a result she’ll have the next 40-plus years to think about her actions.”

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Not everyone was pleased with the terms of Barbera’s plea deal.

The man who found the victims’ bodies, Richard Rosen, spoke to the Inquirer and called the sentence “horrible.” He is Barbera’s uncle, and the brother and son of the victims.

“How can you get 42 years for two murders?,” Rosen asked outside the courthouse. “It should have been life. I don’t understand the judicial system.”

Barbera’s husband, Jimmy Scott Thompson, told the Inquirer he intends to hire a new lawyer for her, and wants an appeal filed on her behalf.

“I’m going to fight for her,” he told the paper. “I’m her husband.”