GULFPORT (WLOX)-- A Harrison County jury found Jonathon Barfield guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of his estranged girlfriend Tiffany Talley. After almost six hours of deliberation, Barfield was charged with Talley's murder.
After closing arguments Thursday morning, Judge Lisa Dodson told jurors they could consider a charge of murder or manslaughter.
For days, both the prosecution and the defense tried to convince the jury to see what happened on December 27, 2006, their way.
In the end, 12 people were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Jonathan Barfield purposely shot his girlfriend. They convicted Barfield of manslaughter. Barfield let out a sigh of relief but Talley's family left the courtroom devastated.
"We were disappointed," said Kelvin Talley, Tiffany Talley's father. "We were expecting a different verdict. We are hurt. Sometimes things happen that we have no control over. It's not the verdict that we were looking for, but no matter what the verdict, it can't bring our daughter back to us."
Doris Weaver was also disappointed. She's an advocate with the Gulf Coast Women's Center For Non-Violence. She works with survivors of homicide victims.
During the trial, a former co-worker of 17-year-old Tiffany Talley testified that Talley told him days before her death that Barfield threatened to kill her if she broke off the relationship.
Weaver said, "We fight so hard for the victims of domestic violence and any violent crime in our community. Yet to see it drop down to a manslaughter charge which carries more limited penalty for this young man who took a very bright star and put it out. She's gone."
Tiffany Talley is gone and Weaver says her death should encourage parents to talk to their teenagers about domestic violence even in young relationships.
"Teenagers don't see dangers. They just see opportunities," said Weaver. "We need to let teenagers know it does happen to them. I think the students at Gulfport High are very aware of that because it was one of their own. It can and it does happen, so educate your children, talk to them, communicate with them. "
I asked Kelvin Talley, "Do you believe in your heart that Mr. Barfield intentionally killed Tiffany?
"No doubt," he said. "There no doubt in my heart."
Barfield has maintained the December 2006 shooting was a accident. Testifying in his own defense Wednesday, Barfield told the jury he did not intend to kill Talley, but he answered her knocks at the door of his FEMA trailer with a gun because he said living in a FEMA park was dangerous. The 19-year-old defendant told the jury Talley bumped him as she entered the trailer and the gun went off.
Jurors also heard the 9-1-1 call Barfield placed a few minutes after the shooting. Prosecutors pointed to that call as one of the varying stories Barfield told authorities about the shooting.
He told the 9-1-1 operator he and Talley had been playing with the weapon when it went off. Sheriff's investigators told the jury two different stories they say Barfield related to them.
The conviction on the manslaughter charge carries a possible sentence of two to 20 years in prison.
If Barfield had been convicted on the murder charge he would have face life in prison. Though prosecutors wanted to sentence Barfield right away, the defense requested a pre-sentencing hearing, which Judge Dodson granted.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Schmidt told WLOX News he will recommend the maximum sentence for Barfield.
Sentencing is set for August 25th.