Ascension Parish couple speaks about their daughter's tragic death

Ascension Parish couple speaks about their daughter's tragic death

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - An Ascension Parish couple is trying to come to terms with their daughter's murder. The woman's boyfriend is accused of beating her to death one week before the August flood.

Brent and Ann Barney try to make themselves as comfortable as they can in their FEMA trailer. Framed pictures of their daughter, Dusty Lawless, welcome visitors into their temporary home.

"The best way to describe her is that she just had this wonderful love of life. The most beautiful smile," Ann Barney said.

Dusty, 41, was a mother of two boys and a promotions director for a local construction company. She loved the LSU Tigers and the New Orleans Saints. Ann feels she knew her daughter well, but she said she didn't know much about her love life until September of last year.

"Then I found out she started dating this guy Justin," Ann Barney said.

Ann said Dusty never talked about him. Then she said, this summer, her son shared with her a picture of Dusty on Facebook. She said Dusty had a black eye.

"I asked, 'What is happening?' I said, 'You can't let this happen,' and she said, 'Mom, it's okay I'm not seeing him anymore. It's over,'" Ann Barney said.

Two months later, Ann said, she got a phone call that Dusty was in the hospital. "We saw the policeman come and a little while later the doctor came out and he said, 'I had to do emergency brain surgery.' The next thing we knew, detectives were all over the hospital," Ann Barney said.

Doctors said Dusty's body was covered in bruises. Her ribs were broken. She could not breathe on her own.

"She had a tube and the blood was coming out of her head. She had strangulation bruises around her neck," Ann Barney said.

Dusty died on August 22, a week and a half after she was admitted to the hospital. Her boyfriend, Justin Wayne Smith, 35, was arrested and charged with her murder. A grand jury has indicted him on second degree murder.

"I am mad. I am. I am mad because it's so senseless," Brent Barney said.

Ascension Parish court records show at least four women have filed restraining orders against Smith. One report filed was from his own mother, who alleged Smith slapped, punched, choked, shoved, and even threatened her with a gun.

"The devastation he caused in people's lives, I will do everything in my power to see that he never sets foot outside of a jail cell ever again in his life," Brent Barney said.

Black and gold flowers now adorn the grave where Dusty is buried. Her parents said they may never know the details of why he allegedly beat their daughter to death, but they are going to keep fighting.

"For her sons' sake I hope there is justice. I want justice for Dusty," Ann Barney said.

Smith is set to be arraigned on December 12.

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