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‘Star witness’ in brother’s murder trial sends harassing messages

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Despite behavior that borders on harassment, the brother of a Lodi man due to stand trial for the murder of a younger brother more than 40 years ago continues to pepper CLIFFVIEW PILOT with texts, voice messages and emails, including one in which he wrote: “you r so gay.”

Michael Barbarino


“the next time you print any thing on me.. i will get a lawyer on your ass.. so get the facts right.. and keep kissing annie ass…,” Michael Barbarino wrote, referring to his sister, Ann Barbarino Crane, who is supporting her accused brother.

Crane was the first to jump to Joseph Barbarino’s defense after he was charged with molesting a young niece. Now 53, Joseph was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison for the crime after the victim told jurors what he did to her — including having intercourse.

Of course, that doesn’t include the time he would be given if convicted of killing younger brother, Vincent.

Michael claims he witnessed the murder, as well as several instances of sexual abuse, but a defense attorney says his credibility is shot by his own criminal history. A former heroin addict who has served time in state prison on weapons, burglary and aggravated assault charges and for a time was institutionalized, Michael Robert Barbarino was 4 when Vincent was killed.

“I am on probation and report two times a week. I get [urine] tested every week, and pass every part of the test,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “I have not [done] any drugs after my arrest in 1997, and stopped drinking about 4 years ago.”

Several years ago, Ann tipped off detectives that Michael was carrying a loaded gun — for which he ended up spending six years in prison.

Joseph Barbarin

With both brothers locked up at the same time, investigators planted a recording device on Michael, hoping to get Joseph to confess the murder to him. Michael, instead, told his brother he was wired.

Vincent was just 6 years old when he was butchered at a Lodi construction site, two blocks from the family’s home, April 5, 1972. He had been sexually abused, an autopsy showed.

For various reasons, police at the time couldn’t produce a killer. Conspiracy theories abounded, including that the Barbarinos connections to local cops.

The case remained cold until John Molinelli became the Bergen prosecutor. Leaning heavily on new forensics, he established a squad that the past several years has cleared dozens of crimes that had been abandoned by his predecessors.

With the help of Lodi Police Chief Vincent Caruso, Molinelli’s investigators not only found people who’d clammed up before deciding to speak. They also have new evidence, the prosecutor says.

In November 2006, while searching Barbarino’s home, investigators found a letter in which Joseph — who was 15 at the time — wrote of having sex with his brother before young Vincent was stabbed to death, his skull crushed, his body left half-naked.

Michael Barbarino, who’s in his early 40s, has proclaimed himself “the star witness,” while Ann claims he’s concocted the murder tale as revenge against his brother for molesting him.

Seven Barbarino children and their parents, as well as various other kin, shared the two-story, ramshackle house when Vincent was killed. Another brother, Tony, who was a teenager in 1972, spent several years in a juvenile facility in connection with a burglary.

But there’s more.

Joe’s current wife used to be married to Michael.


EDITOR’S NOTE : Harassment and threats don’t intimate us. Rather, under the constitutional authority of law, we collect the phone messages, the texts and the emails for presentation to local, state and federal investigators. Al l citizens should consider similar practice.

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