Terry Blevins in court for his sentencing hearing Thursday.

PRINCETON – A convicted murderer faced the family of his victims Thursday in Mercer County Circuit Court before learning his fate: Two back-to-back life sentences with no possibility of parole for brutally killing an elderly couple and setting fire to their home.

Terry Allen Blevins, 25, of Princeton showed little emotion as Judge Derek Swope sentenced him to serve two life terms for the murders of James Barton Jr., 74 and his wife Delores, 74. Since the sentences are without mercy, Blevins will never be eligible for parole. Swope also sentenced Blevins to a indeterminate term of 2 to 20 years for first-degree arson. The sentences will be served consecutively.

James Barton Jr. was found inside a locked storage shed; he had been severely beaten. Delores Barton, who was found in the home’s kitchen, had been beaten and stabbed. Firefighters who fought the blaze later found half a broken baseball bat in the home. Investigators with the West Virginia Fire Marshal determined that the fire had been set in at least two places in the home.

Blevins, who was arrested soon after the Aug. 11, 2008 homicides at the Bartons’ home along Route 19, listened as members of the couple’s family addressed him and described their anguish and the pain they have endured for two years.

The most common question they had for Blevins was “Why?”

One son, Steve Barton, read a statement to Blevins, beginning with, “For the past 21 and a half months, I’ve endured a living nightmare... my mother and father were brutally slaughtered like common livestock. Why? What motive can anyone have to do this, Terry Blevins?

Steve Barton asked Blevins whether he had a bad childhood, “or are you just pure evil and enjoy hurting other people? They were two of the sweetest, kindest people who ever lived.”

And in addition to murdering the husband and wife — who had been married 52 years — Blevins had destroyed precious memories by setting their home on fire. Irreplaceable family heirlooms, photographs and records were destroyed, Steve Barton said. Even four “precious kitties,” cats the Bartons had adopted and cared for, were gone.

The greatest loss was the Bartons themselves.

“Both of my parents were active, vibrant people who had many interests,” Steve Barton said. “They were real people who had two sons who loved them dearly... brothers and sisters, and numerous friends.”

His brother James Barton had strong words and questions for Blevins, too.

“My Mom and Dad were married for 52 years. After two years, I want to know why you did that to my parents. You are a coward and a punk... you took my parents away and I hate you for that. They were the best parents you could ever ask for.”

James Barton showed Blevins photographs of his parents and their home.

“This was before you butchered them. This is the house before the fire, and your handiwork after you left,” he said.

The family saw the couple frequently, said Steve’s wife, Brenda Barton.

“We saw them three or four times a week, and she made the best mashed potatoes you ever had,” she said, sobbing. “I miss her so much. Terry, you hurt us so bad and we don’t know why.”

Investigators with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department said at the time of the murders that robbery was a possible motive.

When passing sentence, Judge Swope said, “A crime like this is indescribable. The words that come to mind are evil, cruel, wicked, monstrous, perverted.”

Swope that in his 32 years of practicing law, he could not recall a case as bad as Blevins’.

“I can’t think of anything that exceeds the horror this family has been through. I’m hard-pressed to think of anything worse,” Swope said.

Blevins initially replied “No, sir,” when asked if he had anything to say to the family. However, as he was lead out of the courtroom, Blevins looked to the Bartons and said: “I’m very sorry for what happened to your family.”

“He said he was sorry for what happened to our family, and he didn’t do it,” Steve Barton said outside the courtroom.

Blevins was taken back to the Southern Regional Jail near Beckley. His attorneys have 30 days to file a motion to appeal the sentence.

— Contact Greg Jordan at


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