Cruise Ship Deaths

Muriel Barnett

Royal Viking Star - August 19, 1989

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Muriel Barnett, 80 - Murder

Royal Viking Star Passenger, August 19, 1989

Time of Cruise Ship Death

Time of Death is unknown

A San Francisco woman was killed aboard the cruise ship Royal Viking Star. Muriel Barnett, age 80, widow of a wealthy San Francisco lawyer was viciously murdered during the voyage by Robert William Dion Frisbee, age 59.

Mrs. Barnett lived in one of the ritziest apartment buildings on Russian Hill and traveled the world aboard cruise ships.

The Royal Viking Star was on an Alaskan cruise that sailed from San Francisco with a stop in British Columbia, Canada. Barnett was murdered right after the ship left Canada enroute for San Francisco. This put jurisdiction in the hands of the Canadians.

Barnett who was found in her luxury $2,000 a day suite she shared on the Royal Viking Star with Frisbee, beaten to death, her skull split open by a bottle of champagne, with blood splattered all over the cabin.

Frisbee was employed by Barnett, and is thought Barnett was killed for her money. Barnetts's husband had left her in excess of six million dollars when he had passed away.

Frisbee was put on trial for first-degree murder in British Columbia, Canada and was convicted by a jury after a trial that lasted 21 days.

Justice Lloyd McKenzie sentenced him to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.

Mrs. Barnett had originally planned to leave Mr. Frisbee $250,000 when she died, but was persuaded to sign a codicil to her will, typed by Mr. Frisbee, giving him two-thirds of her estate. When she told Frisbee she was going to modify her will and change it back to the $250,000, prosecutors say he became enraged.

Mr. Frisbee, her private secretary and companion as well as her late husband's private secretary and homosexual partner, said he was in the cabin at the time but did not remember what happened. Frisbee had hired by Mr Barnett in 1967, when he was 40-years-old.

Frisbee did the cooking, worked as her driver, managed her accounts, and cared for her personal needs.

Frisbee was described in court as an alcoholic and frequent user of tranquilizers. He said he had taken a nap after having two stiff drinks and two Librium capsules and suggested to the butler that Mrs. Barnett had fallen and struck her head. He told prosecutors, "I have no idea what happened."

According to psychiatric reports submitted to the Court by Frisbee's counsel, the defendant had no recollection of the actual events surrounding the death of the deceased. The reports also indicate that the defendant has suffered from periodic blackouts or seizures and from amnesia, all caused by serious alcohol abuse over many years.

The Canadian prosecutor argued that Mr. Frisbee had acquired a taste for the expensive life of San Francisco society and murdered Mrs. Barnett for her money, before she had a chance to change her will.

Thanks to a simple error by the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. federal prosecutors were unable to bring a murder case against Robert Frisbee they had spent six months investigating.

The crime actually occurred in Canada. "It's very frustrating," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dondero said of the discovery that the Royal Star Viking cruise ship was sailing in Canadian, not American, waters when a Bennett was murdered.

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