Pictured: Brian Barrett a.k.a “beefcake”
On Friday, September 15, 2006, just outside Buffalo, N.Y., Brian Barrett’s shift at the Dynabrade power tool plant ended at 10 p.m. He climbed into his truck to head home, but before he could slip his key into the ignition, someone shot him at close range with a .30-caliber rifle. Three bullets passed through his driver’s side window, hitting him in the arm and neck.
He died almost instantly, but it would be two days before a coworker would notice his body still in the truck in the parking lot on Monday morning.
Erie County Sheriff’s deputies dispatched to the scene at 8989 Sheridan Drive in the Buffalo suburb of Clarence talked to locals. They reported hearing gunshots and seeing a man wearing camouflage and a ski mask. Near Barrett’s truck officers found a peach pit and a leather cartridge case covered with what was later determined to be dog hair.
Once the investigators talked to a few coworkers at the factory where Barrett had been working part-time for the last four years, the outline of a likely scenario quickly came into focus. The 22-year-old seemed to have become the victim of a bizarre love triangle: He was likely killed by a man pretending to be someone he was not, obsessed with a woman pretending to be someone she was not.
And almost all of it, until the bloody final act, had happened online.
Daniel Barrett still does not understand how his son ended up a victim. The death of young Brian Barrett certainly shocked his family and friends.
Barrett had been a good kid and a star athlete. He had been on the football team too, but baseball was his game. The former third baseman still holds his high school’s record for the longest home run. His old coach, Starpoint High School Athletic Director Tom Sarkovics, says he never heard anyone say a negative word about the guy.
After high school, Barrett played ball in the Midget League and was voted Most Valuable Player. But by then it was just a game for him: He went to work at a machine shop as soon as he graduated in June 2002. He saved up enough money to buy his Ford Ranger, but then in December he was laid off.
That disappointment prompted him to reconsider college. He enrolled at Erie Community College, and found a job at Dynabrade at the same time. Once he got his two-year associate degree, he transferred to Buffalo State College, where he was studying to become an industrial arts teacher at the time of his murder.
Pictured: Erie Community College
His life was just starting. Barrett still lived with his parents, Dan and Deb Barrett, on Minnick Road in nearby Lockport, in the childhood room decorated with his sports trophies, posters and photos of him with his younger brothers, Daniel and Richard.
His grandfather, Harry Barrett called him Lurch. Barrett was tall and strong, but shy, just finding his footing in the world. He’d started camping and traveling, seeing a little of the world outside the Buffalo area. Earlier in 2006, he’d gone to North Carolina on a camping trip. While there, he tried sky diving for the first time, he told his parents about this only after the jump, afraid that they’d worry about him if they knew.
But it turned out that the mortal danger would come from one of Barrett’s coworkers, Thomas Montgomery.
Pictured: Police Mugshot of Thomas Montgomery also known as “MarineSniper”
Map showing West Virginia and New York State
“Tommy” Montgomery was an 18-year-old Marine about to be deployed to Iraq. He described himself online as 6’2, 180 pounds. He said he had a black belt in karate and that he already sported an array of battle scars.
He met a 17-year-old girl from West Virginia, Jessi, on the game site Pogo.com in the spring of 2005. He told her his mom had died of cancer when he was twelve. She sympathized, and he opened up. He had raped a cheerleader in high school, he said, but then had turned himself around and followed his dad, Tommy Sr., into the Marines.
Pictured: “Jessi” a.k.a “Tallhotblond”
Tommy and Jessi spent more and more time chatting online on Pogo, MySpace and Yahoo. They even scheduled 10-minute phone conversations each day, before and after Tommy’s military duties. When Tommy was in Iraq, his father passed messages and photos between the two, through his Marine contacts.
Tommy got jealous when he started suspecting that Jessi was sending her photos to other men online too. To make it up to him, she sent him one of her thongs and a silver chain. Tommy calmed down and forgave herbut Tommy Sr. stepped in and sternly warned her not to hurt his sensitive, inexperienced son.
Still, he kept relaying their messages. When Tommy considered suicide in Iraq, Jessi kept him going. He said she was the best thing that ever happened to him. She sent him some custom-made dogtags. He tattooed her name on his arm.
And on Christmas Day, 2005, Tommy asked Jessi to marry him. She said yes. They’d never even met.
If they had, Jessi and Tommy would both have realized that nearly everything that they had told each other was a lie.
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To visit the families site, click → Brian Barrett Memorial