W.Va. teen pleads guilty to killing former Canton man

The former Canton Township was shot to death in Weirton

May 6, 2014
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Frank Tulock, formerly of Canton Township, is shown with his son, Brennan, who turned 4 on the day his father was shot and killed in Weirton, W.Va.
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Adam Barnhart

The West Virginia teen who fatally shot a former Canton Township man in Weirton, W.Va., last September pleaded guilty Tuesday to what prosecutors called the “senseless” murder of a good Samaritan trying to help a woman in distress.

Adam Barnhart, 19, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, along with two counts of wanton endangerment, in the Sept. 8 shooting death of 36-year-old Frank Tulock, Brooke County Prosecutor Joseph Barki said.

Barnhart was immediately sentenced by Brooke County Judge Ronald Wilson to 50 years in prison without the possibility of parole as part of the plea agreement, Barki said.

Barnhart spoke clearly and showed little emotion as he apologized to Tulock’s family several times during the proceedings Tuesday morning at the Brooke County Courthouse in Wellsburg, Barki said.

“The defendant’s actions are absolutely inexcusable,” Barki said during a phone interview after the sentencing. “There’s a child without a father and family members who have lost a loved one without any justification.”

Moments before the shooting, Tulock, who had recently relocated from Canton Township to Weirton, was trying to assist a woman he heard shouting for help in the neighborhood.

Court records reveal Barnhart got into a domestic dispute with his mother at their home and Tulock went to the residence to investigate the problem. He heard Barnhart “yelling racial slurs” during the dispute, investigators said, and Tulock responded by stating he has biracial children and didn’t like the comments.

Tulock left when he thought the situation appeared to be under control, however, Barnhart shot him in the back four times with a .45-caliber handgun as he walked away. Tulock made it back to his Orchard Street home, where he collapsed and died at the rear of the residence. The shooting occurred the day his son, Brennan, turned 4 years old.

Barki said Barnhart told investigators he was drinking before the shooting, which “exacerbated” the situation. He initially claimed he thought Tulock planned to assault his mother, but investigators said there was no evidence to substantiate that claim.

“Absolutely, it was a completely senseless crime,” Barki said. “The victim in this case was not only an innocent party, but was acting as a good Samaritan trying to step in for a domestic and lost his life.”

Tulock was a 1995 graduate of Trinity Area High School and worked as a mechanic, relatives previously said.

Barki said Tulock’s family felt comfortable with the plea bargain because Barnhart agreed to forgo any possibility of being paroled early during his prison term.

After the sentencing, Barnhart was returned to the Northern Regional jail in Moundsville, W.Va., where he has been held since the shooting. He is expected to serve the remainder of his sentence at a state prison in Huttonsville, W.Va.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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