Documents show officials investigated man’s well-being months before his body was found in freezer

Police put a mental alert in their system for wife
Documents show officials investigated man’s well-being months before his body was found in freezer

Documents obtained by KOAM show that since at least last year, officials had various concerns about a Joplin couple. Last week, the husband was found dead in a freezer inside the wife’s home. An autopsy showed no signs of foul play. The wife was arrested for abandoning a corpse.

In June of 2018, an incident report from the Joplin Police Department shows the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services got a tip that Paul Barton, who had a terminal illness, was not receiving care and that his wife, Barbara Watters, was neglecting him.

According to the police report, Watters refused to let a Department of Health and Senior Services official inside her home. Instead, Watters pushed Barton in a wheelchair to the officials who were waiting outside.

Those Health and Senior Services officials described Barton as “frail and sickly,” but breathing on his own with no major bruising to suggest an assault.

Officials say Watters refused to allow private conversations between them and Barton. The Health and Senior Services Department planned on filing a charge against Watters for interfering with their investigation.

Joplin police tried to follow-up with Watters in July of 2018, but were unable to contact her.

In August of 2018, a police report shows Watters was curious why an officer was near her home. Police were responding to a well-being check in the neighborhood. According to the report, Watters then told the officer that a doctor who was taking care of her husband wanted to collect his brain and spinal cord for medical research. The next day, police were called to her home and Watters alleged seven detectives assaulted her.

Police put an alert in their system about a possible mental disorder.

About a couple months later, in October of 2018, a caretaker who had been living with Barton and Watters told police that Watters had been abusing Barton verbally and physically, leaving on the toilet for 12 hours at a time, taking away his only means of communication.

In February of this year, about two months after police believe Barton died, officials were called to Watters’ home for a complaint of noisy animals. Officials say they were unable to make contact with Watters in person or by phone, as her phone number was disconnected.

Click the files below for the full police reports.