Barbara Watters

Barbara J. Watters


Joplin police are reporting that Barbara Watters has been taken into custody.

Police say Watters, 67, was arrested without incident today at 814 S. Jackson Ave. with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service.

"She was standing in the yard there," Capt. Nick Jimenez of the Joplin Police Department told the Globe.

Watters has been wanted on a warrant charging her with abandonment of a corpse. Police located the body of a man believed to be her husband, Paul Barton, inside a freezer in her bedroom on Tuesday when a search warrant was served on her home at 2602 S. Vermont Ave.

Barton is believed to have been missing since December. A probable-cause affidavit states that police were told he died on Dec. 30, 2018, almost 11 months ago.

An autopsy has been ordered to make a positive identification of the body and to determine the cause of death. Jimenez said the date and time of the autopsy have yet to be established.


Joplin police believe a woman who was keeping the corpse of her husband in a freezer in her bedroom is suffering from mental illness and may pose a danger to the community.

Barbara J. Watters, 67, is wanted on a charge of abandonment of a corpse. A probable-cause affidavit filed with the charge states that Watters is known to carry firearms and has mental disorders. The warrant for her arrest carries a $100,000 bond.

An unnamed witness told police that she threatened recently — prior to discovery of the corpse in her home at 2602 S. Vermont Ave. — to kill any police officers, firefighters or emergency medical workers who tried to enter her house. The witness told police that when officers came to her residence Nov. 7 attempting to contact the occupants of the address, she stood on the other side of the door with a handgun pointed at the officers and refused to let the witness answer the door.

Police served a search warrant on the residence Tuesday and discovered the corpse of a man they believe to be her husband, Paul N. Barton, in a freezer in her bedroom. Barton purportedly has not been seen for several months.

Investigators obtained the search warrant after receiving information that there might be a dead body inside Watters' home during the course of a neighborhood canvass conducted in connection with an unrelated fire at 2605 S. New Hampshire Ave. The fire is a case of suspected arson and police were conducting the canvass as part of their probe of the fire.

An autopsy has been scheduled to make a positive identification of the body found in Watters' bedroom and to determine the cause of death.

Watters is believed to be in possession of a recent model white Lincoln car with Missouri license plates TC4 S9Z.

Jeff Lehr is a reporter for The Joplin Globe. 

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