Barbara Watters lawsuit for the return of her husband’s body moves to federal court

Home Of Barbara Watters, Joplin, Mo, 2019

S. Vermont Ave., Joplin, Mo. (2019)

JOPLIN, Mo. – Barbara Watters’ lawsuit for the return of her husband’s body moves to federal court.

On May 5, 2020, Watters filed the lawsuit in Jasper County Circuit Court. Yesterday, May 20, the lawsuit transferred to U.S. District Court – Western District of Missouri.

In November 2019, Watters was charged with abandonment of a corpse after police found the body of her husband, Paul N. Barton, in a freezer in their Joplin home on S. Vermont Ave.  The Joplin Police Department said the autopsy on Barton showed no signs of foul play.

In January 2020, a Jasper County Judge dismisses the case against Barbara Watters after he says evidence did not prove that her intent was to abandon the corpse according to state statute.

Watters filed a lawsuit against the Joplin Police Department, City of Joplin and Jasper County Coroner Rob Chappel for the return of her husband’s body and other items seized in the investigation.

Read the full lawsuit here: Barbara Watters lawsuit 2020

The lawsuit states that because Watters and Barton were married at the time of his death, she is his next of kin and has the Right of Sepulcher pursuant to RSMO 194.119. Right of Sepulcher is the right to choose and control final disposition of a dead human body. That includes the right to choose and control the burial, cremation or other final disposition.

According to the lawsuit, Watters was advised that the body of her husband was in the possession of the Jasper County Coroner, where the “body continues to remain to this day despite several requests and a certified demand letter sent on March 26, 2020 to Mr. Chappel.” She’s also requesting his death certificate. Documents state that without the death certificate, the death can’t be properly recorded with the County.

The freezer that was seized by Joplin Police was destroyed, according to documents.

Outside of getting her husband’s body back, Watters’ lawsuit also claims that her civil rights were violated because during the search warrant of her home in November 2019, officers seized items outside of the scope of the search warrant. Some of those items include a marriage license, Barton’s signed affidavit of a refusal to donate organs, books, a handgun, a “legal pad located on desk in front room” and several “miscellaneous documents from file cabinet in fron(t) (sic) room.”

Some of the property seized was returned.

The lawsuit also claims damage to Watters’ home and  substantial emotional harm.

In addition to the return of property and her husband’s body, she’s asking for punitive damage and that her attorney fees and court cost be awarded.