A romantic beach setting has a violent ending for one married couple.
It was an August night in upscale Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., when 911 operators received a call: A husband and a wife had been shot.
Justin Barber, 30, was slumped over in his sport utility vehicle, shot four times, but still breathing. April Barber, 26, was miles down the road on a deserted beach, a single bullet wound to her left cheek.
Sheriff's deputies responded to the scene.
"We were using flashlights. We walked across the walkway down to the beach where we observed April's body," former Sheriff Neil Perry said.
April Barber was pronounced dead on the scene. Justin Barber was airlifted to a nearby trauma center and treated for his wounds, one to his right chest, one to each shoulder, and one straight through his left hand.
Barber told police that he and his wife, both originally from Oklahoma, had gone out to celebrate their third anniversary. After dinner and a few games of pool, they decided to take a romantic stroll on a desolate beach.
"We'd been there before, and it's just a place we go to be alone," he said. He said they slipped off their shoes and walked along the water's edge.
According to Barber, a man wearing a cap stepped out of the darkness, demanding money. Barber says the man waved a small pistol.
"He was pointing the gun at us. I heard one shot and then I was struggling with the man, and I didn't hear the other shots," Barber said.
He told investigators that he blacked out, and when he came to, his wife was missing.
"I was yelling her name and looking for her up and down the beach," he said. "I found her in the water at the water's edge. … There was a hole on her face."
Barber said he struggled to drag April to the car, but dropped her near the boardwalk, too weak to go any farther.
"I knew that I was hurt. I didn't know how badly," he said.
Barber said he had no cell phone on him, so he ran to the highway and stood in the middle of the lane trying to flag down help, to no avail.
"They slowed and went around me, but they didn't stop," he tearfully recalled.
He climbed into his car and drove with his hazard lights flashing in search of help. After almost 10 miles, he stopped.
Barber was bandaged up and released from the hospital the next day. He was back to Oklahoma in time for April's funeral.
The couple, both from small Oklahoma towns, had been together for four years. They married in the Bahamas in 1999, in front of just a few close friends and relatives.
"There's a picture of Justin and April on the beach and just how ironic would it be that that's where they started their life together and that's where her life ended," said Patricia Parrish, April's aunt.
April's young life had already been marked by tragedy. The oldest of three children, she lost her mother, Nancy, to cancer when April was in high school. April assumed a maternal role for her younger sister Julie and brother Kendon.
"She was my best friend, my sister and my mother," said Julie, remembering the big sister who loved to shop and eat Mexican food. "She was very funny and there was never a dull moment when we were together."
Despite the added responsibilities at home, April finished second in her high school class. To honor her mother, she entered the field of radiology and became a technician helping to treat cancer patients. She was studying for her master's degree when she died.