Vershire Man Pleads Not Guilty to Arson, Mental Health Evaluation Ordered
Collin Barry, of Vershire, listens to the judge during his arraignment yesterday morning in Orange District Court in Chelsea. Barry is charged with first degree arson and reckless endangerment. To the left is his attorney, Catherine Dux.(Valley News Photograph) Purchase photo reprints »
On Wednesday morning in Orange District Court In Chelsea Colin Barry of Vershire listens to the judge during his arraignment, Barry is charged with first degree arson and reckless endangerment, on the left is his attorney Catherine Dux.
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Chelsea — Having seen the smoke from the nearby school where he worked, firefighter Patrick Barnes was the first to arrive at the home on Vershire Center Road on Nov. 14.
The front door was hot to the touch — the fire growing inside was surely too big for one man to handle alone.
Barnes started running next door to get help when he saw a man lying on the ground with something sticking out of the right side of his head.
According to court documents, Collin Barry, somehow conscious after intentionally shooting himself, told Barnes that he had set the house on fire and then put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
“I got a bullet in my head,” Barry told Barnes, as smoke poured from the home, according to court documents.
Yesterday, Barry, 53, appeared in Orange Superior Court and pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree arson and reckless endangerment, which carry a maximum prison sentence of 11 years combined.
Barry, bent on suicide, according to court records, set a fire that would eventually burn his ex-wife’s home to the ground, and then sat down on her bed and shot himself. He heard the bang and soon realized he was still alive.
Barry searched for the gun, to try again, but could not find it in the smoke and flames, according to court documents.
Barry declined to comment after his court appearance.
“My life is already ruined,” he told a reporter before the hearing.
Court documents indicate that Barry had struggled with depression and was frustrated after recently breaking up with a girlfriend and being temporarily taken in by his ex-wife, Kristin Barry. Court records show they divorced 2010 after more than seven years of marriage. The divorce was uncontested.
In an interview, Orange County State’s Attorney Will Porter said that he is sympathetic to Barry’s apparent motive, but is pursuing criminal charges because Barry’s alleged actions endangered others.
“He may have been despondent and that would explain why he did it, but it doesn’t excuse it,” Porter said.
Kristin Barry lost nearly all of her possessions, along with her home, a trailer home with an addition built onto the side. She could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In court yesterday, Judge Timothy Tomasi ordered Barry to avoid any contact with Kristin Barry, and to not posses any firearms.
Public defender Catherine Dux requested a mental health evaluation, which will help determine whether Barry is competent to stand trial.
After the incident, Barry was flown from the house to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and then taken to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where doctors treated his burns and removed the bullet from his head. In court yesterday, Barry bore no visible injuries from the incident.
An affidavit filed by Vermont State Police Sgt. Michael Manley gives the following account.
Barry woke up in the morning around 6 a.m. convinced “he was going to die,” according to the affidavit. He chose morning because he did not want anyone else around, and didn’t want anyone else hurt.
He got out of bed, grabbed a cup of coffee and started to plan his death. He took a swig of beer, balled up some newspaper and put it under the couch near the kitchen, and under the bed.
“Time to go,” he told himself. He took a small torch and lit the newspaper. Then he hopped on the bed, pulled the trigger, and heard a bang. The .380 caliber round apparently did not fully penetrate — Barry lived to see the fire spread.
He tried to find the gun — he had dropped it after firing the shot— but he couldn’t see.
Barry determined that he did not want to burn to death, so he said he ran out of the house and collapsed.
Barry said he wasn’t angry — he was just tired.
The single story mobile home was appraised at $70,000
Mark Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3304.