Victim of Polson hammer attack dies; murder charges filed

Victim of Polson hammer attack dies; murder charges filed

POLSON — When Desmond Alan Mackay is arraigned here Thursday morning, it will be for deliberate homicide.

John Barrows, the man Lake County authorities allege was the unintended victim of a bloody hammer assault by Mackay earlier this month, died over the weekend at Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

Barrows, 67, was Mackay’s father-in-law.

Prosecutors say Mackay told police he was attempting to hit his brother-in-law, Jesse Waugh, with the hammer and struck Barrows in the head by mistake.

Waugh was also allegedly attacked with the hammer by Mackay during the March 5 incident, but Waugh managed to pin Mackay to the ground until Polson police arrived. Waugh suffered minor injuries.

Deputy county attorney James Lapotka said Monday he will seek to amend the charges prior to Thursday’s arraignment to include single felony counts of deliberate homicide and assault with a weapon.

Mackay was originally charged last week with attempted deliberate homicide and two counts of assault with a weapon. At the time, Lapotka warned that doctors said it was questionable whether Barrows would survive the head injury.

The original court documents indicate Waugh told officers there had been problems between him and his brother-in-law relating to work and money.

Mackay allegedly told officers he “hated” Waugh, and that he didn’t know whether he had hit Waugh with the head of the hammer, “but he stated that he hoped he did.”

The documents say Mackay and another man were in a garage behind a residence at 509 Fourth Ave. E. in Polson when Waugh entered, retrieved a battery and left.

“The defendant then grabbed a hammer off a nearby rack and walked over to the door Waugh had exited,” the documents say.

The affidavit alleges that Mackay paused at the doorway and waited until the door began to open again.

“Then he quickly jerked open the door with his left hand and swung his hammer toward the head of the person in the doorway,” it continues.

Waugh wasn’t returning to the garage, however. Barrows was entering.

The documents allege that Mackay muttered a quick apology to his father-in-law, then chased after Waugh, who was still in the yard.

Barrows was unresponsive at the scene. He was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson and flown to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery.

He reportedly never regained consciousness and died on Saturday, 10 days after being hit in the head with the framing hammer.

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