Man at center of fiery standoff accused Tyler police of false arrest in 1998

Man at center of fiery standoff accused Tyler police of false arrest in 1998
Kenneth Barton (Source: Smith County Sheriff's Office)
Kenneth Barton (Source: Smith County Sheriff's Office)

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The man at the center of the fiery standoff in Smith County has had a history with law enforcement dating back decades.

"I think he has been on the radar of law enforcement since the '70's," Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said on Wednesday.

Deputies were at Kenneth Barton's home on Wednesday, executing a search warrant in connection to the disappearance of his mother, Frances Barton, who had not been seen by family members in several years. Barton would barricade himself inside the residence and start an hours long standoff with authorities, before two shots were heard and the home went up in flames.

Sheriff Smith said Wednesday no shots were fired by law enforcement. The remains of Kenneth Barton were found after firefighters were able to extinguish the fire. Deputies were also able to locate the body of Frances Barton in an upright freezer. It is not known how long she had been in the freezer.

In 1998, Kenneth, along with his brother Clifton, were arrested by Tyler police for the 1974 robbery and murder of businessman and former police detective Louis J. Carlat, Sr.

A Smith County grand jury would not uphold the charges against the Barton brothers. Jeff Haas, Barton's attorney in 1999, said it was because of a wrongful arrest.

"Our investigation has shown that there was virtually no evidence to link Mr. Barton to the commission of this offense," Haas said. "He feels it was a personal vendetta due to the fact that our former chief had some sort of personal relationship with the daughter of the victim."

The victim's family told KLTV in 1999 they knew William 'Bill' Young before he became Tyler's Chief of Police and he told them he would do whatever he could to solve their case.

The chief stood by his arrests of the Barton brothers in 1999.

"The arrests were made based on viable data and viable information and it just turns out that the grand jury chose not to indict," Young said in 1999.

Kenneth Barton would go on to sue the City of Tyler claiming the chief ordered the Barton's arrested "despite protest by many of the investigating officers."

Barton also claimed the arrest led to Chief Young being forced to resign in 1999 by Tyler's city council, city manager and mayor. The city settled outside of court with Barton for an unspecified amount.

Seventeen years after that lawsuit, Kenneth Barton would be the focus of another death investigation -- this one involving his mother, Frances Barton.

Tyler police said there have been no arrests in the Carlat case since the Barton brothers were released in 1999. The case remains unsolved.

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