by Dave Warner
Editor’s Note: The intent of this article is to highlight the increase in domestic violence rates, not to bring up old memories and cause the family of either side any distress. We are sorry if that is the case, but it is an important topic for our community to discuss.
It seems just like yesterday for many, but the reality is, Scott Barhydt was charged with strangling and burying the body of 27-year-old Jodi Mari Connor over seventeen years ago on John Street. He was arrested after fleeing to Edgewater Florida and was returned to New York to face a murder charge.
Barhydt was tried and convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison, and most expected he would still be in jail. However, he was given a conditional release to parole earlier than expected on January 21, 2021, with the maximum expiration date for that parole being January 21, 2026.
I remember it like it was yesterday
Retired Little Falls Chief of Police Ron Petrie had only been on the force for four years at the time, yet remembers it like it was yesterday. “The initial call on this came in from Jodi’s father. It was her birthday, and not one had passed without them speaking to each other on that special day. So when he didn’t get a phone call from Jodi, he knew something was wrong. ”
The dad went to the police department to file a missing person’s report. “Because she was an adult, adults can go missing. Her lifestyle at the time was such that it wasn’t unusual for her to go missing for a week at a time. She was kind of a free spirit,” said Petrie.
However, the father was steadfast in saying that something was wrong. Petrie said, “that’s how we treated it for at least the first 5-7 days. We were just dealing with it as a missing person’s case and trying to figure out where she might go.”
At one point, Barhydt came to the station, and Petrie was assigned to talk to him. “They put me in a room with him, and at that point, I might have had 3 1/2 to 4 years of experience on the force, and was not well-trained in interview and interrogation. So, I asked questions about a missing person,” he said.
Petrie said that he spent at least two hours in the interview room talking about where she might be or what might have happened. “I never got any ideas that he had done something as bad as he had done.”
Within an hour after participating in that interview, Barhydt took off to Florida. “Part of the reason he was going to Florida was that his mother was down there and she was under hospice care for cancer. He had actually mentioned that to me during our interview, which really didn’t raise any red flags with me, because who wouldn’t go visit their mother when they were on their deathbed?”
A positive thing that had come out of the interview, was carte blanche permission to search the house. “He gave me a key and signed a waiver that said we could go into the house any time we wanted. So, we knew by that night or the next day that Scott was in Florida, but we had full access to his house,” Petrie said.
The Little Falls Police Department and a State Police forensic unit went through the house from top to bottom and turned up nothing. “I was routinely going into the house to check the answering machine or for any other signs that she had returned home or was coming home,” he stated.
Several days later though, the prosecutor at the time, John Crandall, brought in the State’s major crimes unit. “They assigned six or eight investigators paired up with every Little Falls Police officer, and even though it ruffled some feathers, the way they deal with things is to start at square one. They listened to what we had done, took copies of all our reports, made notes, and then they backed up to our day one and retraced our steps,” said Petrie.
One of those steps was to go back to the house with each police officer and have them point out what they had seen or thought at the time. He said, “The way the house was built, you could go down the stairs to a finished basement and laundry room. But, you could exit a side door from the basement and walk around to the back of the house. Underneath the back porch, there was like an access panel where you could get underneath the house.”
We had looked under that a good six to ten times
“We had looked under that I bet a good six to ten times where people had been in that crawl space, but it was filthy and full of cobwebs. But, here’s the state investigator in his suit and trenchcoat, well-dressed, and he crawled right under that house.”
He laid there for a while and Petrie asked him what he was doing. ‘I’m just trying to think – if I was going to bury a body, where under here would I bury it?’ “He kind of looked, and surveyed the area, and he literally just reached over with his hand and swiped away the dirt, and this little tuft of hair came up. I can picture it in my mind right now,” Petrie said.
They backed out of the space, and even though they had full permission to access any part of the house, they filed for a search warrant so that none of the evidence could be contested.
Petrie said that the discovery caused a lot more traffic at the house, and the media caught wind of the story and started to show up. “We really weren’t prepared for that. We had them coming from Albany to Syracuse.”
From prior conversations with Barhydt, he had given stories as to where he had been, that there had been an argument between the two of them, and other details, that once the body had been found, didn’t line up.
Retired Police Chief Michael Masi was just a sergeant at the time, but had taken the original missing persons call from Jodi’s father and had been working the case along with Petrie. He was adamant that someone from Little Falls should go down to Florida to question Barhydt along with the state team. Petrie said, “Because I had been so involved with the investigation, I drew the short straw.”
While conducting the investigation, they had found out that another family member had helped hide the body. So, when in Florida, they latched onto him and interviewed him at length, which allowed them to have additional facts prior to interviewing Barhydt in Florida.
They brought him to the station in Edgewater where he was interviewed by two of the state investigators and Petrie. “Once Scott realized that his back was against the wall, he kind of clammed up for a little while, so they gave him a little break. At that point I was like, do we have enough to arrest him or not?” stated Petrie.
He asked the investigators if he could go back in and keep Barhydt company to try and keep him calm and allow time to pass while they were trying to make a decision on the arrest.
“I walked in and just started talking to Scott…making small talk. At one point, he just put his face in his hands and leaned over and looked at me and he asked for investigator Dolly by name. He said, ‘can you bring Mike Dolly back in here?’ I said sure.”
He never really confessed
Petrie said, for him, there is a difference between an admission and a confession. “He never really confessed, but he made a lot of admissions. The big catch for us at that point was that he was putting himself in the house, with just the two of them at the time she died, which gave us more than enough to charge him with the murder,” stated Petrie.
Right after being charged, the family showed up at the police station in Edgewater to let him know that his mother had passed. They said, “We understand he’s not coming home with us, but can you let him know that mom just died.”
The next day, they finished up paperwork in Florida and then accompanied him back to New York.
The trial was held in Herkimer County and a plea deal was arranged that had Barhydt plead guilty to Manslaughter in the 1st degree. Petrie said, “My recollection was that they gave him 20 years determinate, which was supposed to mean that he’d spend 18 1/2 years incarcerated, and it has only been 17 1/2.”
He said that over the last year, many people have asked him about the release knowing that it would be coming up soon. “I gave the same response to everyone. Number one, he has to do at least 18 1/2 years, so it will be at least a year before he is eligible. Based on the charges and the mental steps he went through to commit that crime, I don’t see him getting out in the first parole.”
So, when Petrie found out that he had been let out last week and was already out of the state, “I have to be honest with you, it pissed me off.” He had always felt that he would be long retired before that would happen (Petrie officially retired on 12/31/2020). “I thought he had at least another year to 18 months of incarceration.”
Petrie said, “When we went back and canvassed neighbors where they had lived on Moreland Street, we found out that almost every person told the same story about how at least once a week these two would get into a knock-down, drag-out fight in the middle of the street after the bars closed.”
“Going through the records, we found that we didn’t even have one disturbance or domestic call. We had nothing on paper, and even though the neighbors saw this, nobody called, nobody said anything,” he said. “This is why it’s important. If you see something, say something. I don’t know if it would have changed the outcome, but maybe it would have.”
Masi is now a domestic violence instructor. “I use her story every time I teach a class on domestic violence because it is a classic case of extreme jealousy and the ‘if I can’t have you nobody can’ scenario. It is a strong message for victims of domestic violence.”
Masi says that on Halloween night, they were out with friends and hanging out and seemed to get along. They both said that they had broken up and that it was amicable. “They were going to continue to live together for convenience purposes because nobody would have to find another place. In everybody’s eyes, it appeared all well and good.”
It was planned
Masi said that Barhydt claimed he did it in a fit of rage. “I don’t believe that at all. It was planned. He knew that she was leaving him and he wasn’t going to have it.”
“For the families, we look at the fact that he is out now. Her family doesn’t have a second chance, she doesn’t. There were a lot of people impacted, even on his side of the family, his own son lost a father,” Masi said.
“Today’s criminal justice system, even though I work in it, is something I’ll never agree to. He gets a reprieve because of budget, saving money, or we have to be concerned about him. But what about the family that has suffered all those years, and now find out that he is out,” stated Masi.
He said, it is the system that we have though, and one that we have to live with. “Any chance we get to prevent something like this from happening again is one of the reasons that I teach domestic violence. Whether it be safety planning for victims that may be thinking about leaving an abusive relationship or making sure that we hold offenders accountable.”
Connor’s nursing certificate came in the mail the day they were processing the scene and Masi said, “She had just completed the nursing program and she was moving on with her life. She was building her life the way she wanted it to be. She wasn’t perfect, but I don’t think that she thought her life would come to that point.”
“He made a choice to take her life that night. He made a choice to have a long-term impact on his own eleven-year-old son at that time. He made that choice and made it alone,” Masi stated.
Bart Carrig was assigned as counsel to represent Barhydt, as he was part of the assigned counsel program for Herkimer County and he stated, “My assignment to this matter followed my prior experience as defense counsel. The able prosecutor at the time was John Crandall, who has since become County Court Judge and an Acting Supreme Court Judge.”
“It was certainly a challenging situation in light of the horrific charges and conviction. And one can only think with sadness at the fact that such things can touch even our otherwise peaceful and protected community. The unmeasurable and saddest impact, of course, is on the family. And my heart still aches for them,” said Carrig.
He went on to say that it’s ironic that this reminder comes to us at the time of COVID and such political turmoil and upheaval. “It tests all of our faith in humanity, religion, family and our governmental structures; the role of justice and punishment — all of that.”
“And we live now in a time of such a lack of faith in government, institutions, and even in the great experiment of democracy. We seem to be living in a time where we have a hard time seeking, finding, and even recognizing goodness; losing faith and belief in the most fundamental concepts of fairness and truth that we have hitherto carried all of our lives — through wars, depressions, natural disasters and, well … elections,” stated Carrig.
Where to find help if you are a victim of domestic violence
The Domestic Violence Program of Herkimer County *offers crisis and supportive services to victims of domestic violence and their children.
- Safe, temporary shelter for battered women and children.
- Crisis counseling.
- Accompaniment and advocacy through legal, medical, housing, and social services systems.
- Provides supervised visitation to abusers and their children.
- Provides professional training and community education programming.
Eligibility: Shelter available to surrounding counties, all other services Herkimer County only.
Application Process: Call the hotline at 315-866-0458 or walk-in to 61 West Street, Ilion NY 13357.
There is no required documentation and no fee for their services. You can find additional information on their Facebook page.