Prosecutors and McGee disagree over why the outspoken supremacist was killed. McGee has said the 67-year-old made sexual advances toward him and that he didn’t know about his racist views. But shortly after the killing, the district attorney said he believed robbery was the motive and that McGee had some of Barrett’s possessions.
Circuit Judge William Chapman sentenced McGee to 65 years in prison, including 20 for manslaughter, 20 for arson and 25 for burglary. McGee has been held without bond since his arrest days after the killing.
McGee, brought into the courtroom in shackles and a yellow jail jumpsuit, replied “Yes, sir” when asked by Chapman if he understood what the consequences of pleading guilty. He made no other comment to the court.
“It is highly unlikely Mr. McGee will ever leave the penitentiary,” Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest said after the sentencing.
Guest said the movement toward a guilty plea came earlier in the week, but the agreement wasn’t made until late Wednesday. His staff decided to accept the plea only if McGee agreed to maximum sentences on all three charges.
“It is fair sentence,” Guest said.
Defense attorney Mike Scott did not return a call seeking comment.
Barrett was known for traveling the country to promote segregationist views. He founded a group called the Nationalist Movement and ran it from an office in rural Mississippi, about 20 miles from Jackson. He also operated a school for skinheads.
McGee’s mother told authorities that Barrett was acquainted with the family and had stopped by their home for about an hour to socialize the night of his death. They lived along the same rural road.
McGee told a reporter shortly after Barrett’s death that he didn’t know about the man’s supremacist views. He also gave inconsistent statements about why he went to Barrett’s house the day of the killing, though he maintained in different versions that Barrett made sexual advances.
In one statement, McGee said he went to Barrett’s house to use his computer, Rankin County Undersheriff Bryan Bailey has said. In another statement, Bailey said McGee told investigators he went to the house to confront Barrett about money owed him for yard work.
In the latter statement, he said he hit and stabbed Barrett after he dropped his pants and asked for a sex act.
Authorities said McGee set the fire in an attempt to conceal the crime. Authorities said Barrett had burns covering 35 percent of this body.
In the weeks after the arrest, Guest said he believed robbery was the motive in the slaying, and says investigators recovered a pistol and wallet that McGee took from the home. The case never produced evidence that the killing had connections to Barrett’s segregationist activities.
Prosecutors had charged McGee as a habitual offender, citing previous convicts for assaulting a police officer, grand larceny and for a parole violation.