It was a reunion of sorts at the Prince George's County courthouse yesterday, as almost all the leading characters in the murder trial of Leslie L. Barger, a fugitive for 14 years, returned to watch Barger face a charge of jumping an appeal bond in 1968.
Barger, now 64, was arrested Monday in an Annandale apartment house by FBI agents acting on a tip. Twice convicted of second-degree murder in a much-publicized 1963 shooting of a Lanham man, Barger was believed to have fled to Mexico or Spain after he was released from jail pending an appeal. He is being held without bond at the Prince George's County Detention Center.
Yesterday's brief proceeding gave no hint of how Barger had eluded arrest through the years, and his attorney, citing his clients's right to confidentiality, refused to provide any details.
Barger, grizzly-bearded and dressed in the green uniform of detention center inmates, stood before Circuit Court Judge Ernest A. Loveless Jr., who heard Barger's original case in 1963. Seated at opposite tables before the judge were College Park lawyer Joseph A. DePaul, who represented Barger at both previous trials, and Prince George's States' Attorney Arthur (Bud) Marshall, who had successfully prosecuted Barger in one of Marshall's first major trials as a newly elected official.
As Barger took his place before the bench for the 15-minute hearing, held to determine if he had legal counsel, Loveless asked, "How are you, sir?"
Barger replied, "Reasonably well, sir." Loveless, the barest hint of a smile appearing at his lips, then said, "It's been a long time."
"That it has, sir,"said Barger, who did not speak further.
Marshall and DePaul, who had chatted amiably in the corridor moments before the hearing, later exchanged sharp words in court on whether Barger was entitled to a public defender, and whether he should be returned to Baltimore to begin serving his original 16-year sentence.
Though Barger had paid DePaul to represent him in 1963, he asked for a public defender this time, said DePaul, and the county's public defender asked DePaul to serve. DePaul said he agreed to do so "for old times' sake," and "to keep (Marshall) straight."
Marshall said the public defender's office had failed to make sure that Barger was indeed indigent. Judge Loveless gave the public defender's office a week to investigate and then ordered Barger be sent to Baltimore next Thursday prior to his trial which starts Nov. 30. He also granted Barger credit for the 171 days he served after his initial arrest and between his three appeals.
Barger, twice-married and employed as a real estate salesman, was charged with fatally shooting Henry W. Koch, 29, when Koch surprised him in bed with Koch's estranged wife.