Rachel Barrett couldn't tell if her husband was crying on the phone. It was Thursday, the day after Richard Barrett Jr. went on a destructive rampage along U.S. 19. He caused at least three car wrecks and sent a 72-year-old man to the hospital in serious condition. Richard Barrett Jr., 38, spoke with his wife from his hospital room in Hernando County. He has cuts, bruises and a broken leg.
"He said he is very sorry this all happened," his wife said. "He said he blacked out and didn't know what he was doing.
"He is just very upset."
Richard Barrett Jr. suffers from bipolar disorder. His wife said he told her about his condition when they first began dating six years ago. He told her he was diagnosed as a teenager, but he had it controlled with medication. She fell in love with him because he's so caring and kind. At 6-feet-8 and 300 pounds, he's a gentle giant, she says.
"I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams this could happen," she said of Wednesday's horror.
In the time she's known him, Rachel Barrett said she witnessed one previous episode. In 2008 his medication stopped working, making him talkative and paranoid. But he knew something was wrong and was willing to get help.
He got a new medication and everything seemed fine — until Monday night, when he became manic. He said he was fine. On Tuesday, he cussed at his family and tried to suffocate his father, Rachel Barrett said. She said the Pasco Sheriff's Office was called out twice to their home on Durham Drive in Port Richey; the agency has record of one visit at 10 p.m. Rachel Barrett locked herself in their bedroom as her husband threatened to kill her family if she didn't let him in. When the deputy arrived, Richard Barrett Jr. was calm and said "everything is fine," authorities said.
Rachel Barrett said she told the deputy her husband is bipolar and needs help. She said the deputy told her he couldn't violate her husband's civil rights — but he suggested she get a court order the next morning to have him involuntarily placed into a mental health facility. The deputy also suggested she stay somewhere else that night. She went to her mother's house.
"Richard stated he is going to bed and nothing else will happen," a sheriff's report stated.
Rachel Barrett and her mother filed the papers at the Pasco courthouse Wednesday morning and drove to the house to check on Richard Barrett Jr. That's when they saw deputies there and flashing lights. The crashes had already occurred.
Richard Barrett Jr., who had no prior criminal history in Florida, will likely face several charges from Wednesday's incident.
"We are still trying to figure out why this happened," Rachel Barrett said. "Why?"
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.