Murder defendant out of jail but must stay home

Feb. 19, 2013 @ 07:52 AM

A Dudley Shoals man accused of shooting a neighbor in the face was released from jail Friday but is under court order to remain at his house on Kistler Lane, within feet of the site where the shooting took place.

Ralph Barker, 71, was arrested Feb. 7 and initially held with no bond allowed on a murder charge in the shotgun slaying of Danny Marlin Bowman, 67. Last Thursday, Judge Robert Mullinax Jr. set Barker's bond at $150,000. Later that same day, Debra Bumgarner, who attended church with Barker and testified before Mullinax about Barker's character, signed a promissory note in the amount of $90,500 to help secure Barker's bond. Willie Hall, who also testified before Mullinax on Barker's behalf, signed a promissory note for $59,500 to secure the remainder of the bond.

Under the terms set by Mullinax, while out of jail Barker cannot leave Caldwell County except for doctor appointments in Rowan and Catawba counties. Barker must also surrender all firearms and have no contact with the Bowman family.

Barker is accused of shooting Bowman in the face with a 20-gauge shotgun just before 5:30 p.m. Feb. 7 over a dispute about cinder blocks placed in Barker's driveway. Bowman was sitting in his pickup truck outside Barker’s home, at 4922 Kistler Lane in Dudley Shoals. Investigators say Bowman was belted in, with the truck's door closed and the window rolled down. No weapon was found on Bowman or in the truck.

Bumgarner testified that she has known Barker and his wife of 52 years, Elaine, for 12 years, even attending the same church. She said Barker was “one of the most gentle men I’ve ever known.” She said she had never known him to be violent or heard about any violence involving him.

Hall, who lived at the same trailer park as Barker and Bowman, testified that Bowman was convicted of assaulting him with a deadly weapon and “always wanted to shoot or kill someone.”

Barker suffers from a heart arrhythmia, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which makes it difficult to breath, and is on oxygen 24 hours a day.