Birmingham police charged 40-year-old Tricia Abney with capital murder in the 1995 death of Justin Barnett
The secret of what happened to an Alabama man who went missing 20 years ago may have finally been answered.
Last Wednesday, Birmingham police charged 40-year-old Tricia Abney with capital murder for stabbing, beating and dismembering Justin Barnett in a robbery gone horribly wrong, a Cold Case Unit investigator tells PEOPLE.
The slaying happened in June 1995, but authorities had a recent break in the case when a witness to the brutal murder came forward about six months ago.
“It was weighing heavy on his mind,” Detective Talana Brown says. “He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep. I guess he just couldn’t take it anymore.”
The witness told investigators that Abney was working as a stripper at Sammy’s Gentlemen’s Club when she met Barnett. She lured the 23-year-old home so that she and her boyfriend could rob him.
But things turned violent and Barnett ended up being stabbed to death inside the apartment. Together, she and her boyfriend dismembered him and then buried the remains in Centreville.
Police tried to find Barnett’s remains with the help of the witness, but they were unsuccessful. So they finally brought in Abney and she confessed.
“I think it was weighing on her as well, but if it wasn’t for the other witness, she wouldn’t have come forward,” says Brown.
Officials also approached Abney’s former boyfriend, now living in Mobile, earlier this month, but he refused to cooperate with the investigation. A week after their visit, Brown was notified that he’d shot himself.
As for the witness who initially contacted police? He’s feeling better, says Brown.
“He’s still bothered by it,” she says, “but he’s happy he came forward.”
Abney is charged with capital murder and is due to make her first court appearance on Tuesday.
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