Melody Farris’ husband was still missing when, authorities say, she made a stunning admission to the other man she was seeing.
“He’s on the burn pile,” she allegedly told Rusty Barton, her Tennessee paramour. Cherokee Sheriff’s Office Det. Daniel Hayes testified about the phone call and other jarring details during a probable cause hearing on Friday.
The smoldering remains of Gary Farris were found the day after his wife’s phone call. They’d been married for 38 years.
Melody Farris, 58, showed little reaction to Hayes’ testimony. As prosecutors publicly laid out the case against her for the first time, she slumped in a chair between her two attorneys. She seemed eager to go unnoticed.
Family members, including her own children, sat on the opposite side of the Cherokee County courtroom.
Gary Farris, a successful Atlanta commercial real estate attorney, died about a year ago. Investigators believe Melody Farris fatally shot him and disposed of his body in a a fiery pit, roughly 15 feet wide and roughly five inches deep, on their 10-acre property. A bullet was recovered from Gary Farris’ rib bone.
By the time Barton told authorities of his conversation with Melody Farris, deputies had zeroed in on her as the prime suspect. Blood matching Gary Farris’ DNA was found all over the couple’s home and on a blouse and pair of shoes belonging to Melody Farris, authorities say.
Defense attorney Michael Ray argued that the state’s case remains largely unproven.
“I think it’s strange that they’re saying there’s one caliber one place and another caliber another place and they don’t have any gun,” he said. “It’s definitely an odd set of circumstances.”
Gary Farris was shot with a .38 caliber handgun, Hayes testified. Investigators haven’t located it but believe there had been one in the couple’s basement.
Melody Farris’ alleged affair with Barton was no secret, her lawyer said. She and Gary Farris lived separate lives under the same roof. He occupied the basement while she spent time on the upper two floors of their $1 million home.
“That was a known fact,” Ray said of the couple’s living arrangements.
Hayes said Melody Farris denied having an affair when questioned by police. They found out about Barton when they discovered his debit card in her purse, Hayes said. The two had exchanged 3,200 texts and phone calls in the six months preceding Gary Farris’ death, Hayes said.
Melody Farris also told police she and her husband had argued over finances. She had to ask him for money and didn’t even have her own debit card. It “upset her greatly” when she learned Gary Farris had funded one of their adult son’s vacations, Hayes testified.
Ray said Melody Farris was in “complete shock” when she was arrested last Tullahoma, Tenn., where Barton resides.
“It’s now set in this is something she has to address going forward,” he said.
Melody Farris told investigators she last saw her husband on July 3, 2018. Within days, family members joined her in a search. Their youngest son, Scott Farris, discovered his father’s remains.
The couple’s oldest son, Chris Farris, contacted The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month to dispute a claim by one of his mother’s attorneys that her family stood behind her.
“This is very embarrassing for our family,” Chris Farris said. “Our father was the best person in the world.”
Melody Farris remains in Cherokee’s Adult Detention Center pending a bond hearing scheduled for July 16.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.