crime scene

A 23-year-old Vinton man received a life sentence, plus 40 years, on two charges in state district court Friday for the 2015 shooting death of Jody Barlow, 33, in Starks.

A jury on March 10 convicted Zachary Bench of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice in the death of Barlow, who was shot multiple times in the head on Aug. 26, 2015.

Barlow’s body was found in a wooded area off Old River Road in Starks near the Calcasieu-Beauregard parish line. His truck, off-road vehicle and trailer were discovered burned near the 2000 block of Green Moore Road.

On Friday, Barlow’s wife, Julia Barlow, briefly spoke before sentencing. She said that “many mistruths” were said about her late husband during the trial and that he was the “best type of friend to have.”

“He was a great human being down to his soul,” she said.

Defense attorney Andrew Casanave objected to the mandatory life sentence imposed for the second-degree murder conviction and emphasized that Bench had expressed remorse for what had happened.

“He is someone who doesn’t have a long and sordid criminal history,” Casanave said.

Judge David Ritchie said Bench’s testimony wasn’t credible and that Bench was “fake and dishonest” in his video interview with authorities.

“He tried to make himself look good while he sociopathically lied,” Ritchie said.

He also said Barlow’s reputation was “soiled unnecessarily” by Bench during the trial. Ritchie called Bench’s case one in which a life sentence is appropriate. And he spoke of Bench’s efforts to destroy the evidence, including the melting down of the weapons involved and the burning of Barlow’s truck, off-road vehicle and trailer.

“He went to extreme measures to cover his tracks and the murder,” Ritchie said before imposing the maximum penalty, 40 years, for the obstruction charge. Ritchie ordered that the sentences be served consecutively.