GRAVETTE -- Police are searching for a motive in an apparent murder-suicide that left four family members dead Friday.
Police identified the victims as Justin, Inga, Levi and Casey Barnes, all found dead at a rural Gravette home at 15071 Crossover Road in Northwest Arkansas' Benton County.
Justin Barnes likely was the killer, Capt. Chris Kelley of the Gravette Police Department said at a news conference Saturday. Inga was his wife, and Levi and Casey were his adult children. Levi and Casey Barnes did not live at the residence, but an 18-year-old sibling who was not home at the time of the shooting does.
"We do have a little bit of evidence linking to what we believe may have been the motive, but at this time, I'm not going to release that to the public," Kelley said.
Justin Barnes filed for divorce March 19, according to Benton County court records. The divorce filing states that Justin and Inga were married Aug. 3, 2004, and separated around March 1. There has been no action in the case since it was filed.
In April, Casey and Levi Barnes filed for an incorporation with the secretary of state's office for JLC Contracting Inc.
Justin Barnes has four service-related businesses listed with the secretary of state's office: Barnes Drywall Inc., J&B Drywall Inc., J&P Lawn Care LLC and JWB's Majic Tan & Video LLC. All the listings are no longer current. He and his companies have faced 18 financially related lawsuits in Benton County since 1998, court documents show.
The couple is listed as filing for bankruptcy three times in U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Western District of Arkansas -- Chapter 13 in 1998 and 2002 and Chapter 7 in 2009, court records show. Chapter 13 bankruptcy has the debtor pay off all or part of the debts, and Chapter 7 is a liquidation.
The Barneses purchased the residence on Crossover Road for $275,000 on June 19, 2012, according to Benton County property records.
Police were still working out the timeline for Friday's shooting, Kelley said Saturday.
Gravette police went to the residence after Justin Barnes called authorities about 2:39 p.m. Friday.
"It is believed that there was a time lapse in between each victim, with obviously the suspect being the last when he took his own life," Kelley said.
He said police believe Justin Barnes killed himself when the Benton County sheriff's office's SWAT team and police from Decatur and Sulphur Springs arrived about 3:30 p.m.
Two bodies were outside and two were inside the home, Benton County Coroner Daniel Oxford said Friday.
The bodies were sent to the state Crime Laboratory in Little Rock for further analysis and to help determine times of death, Kelley said.
The weapon used was a .22-caliber handgun, he said.
It's unclear who owned the weapon, Kelley said, although authorities have determined that the gun wasn't stolen.
Justin Barnes pleaded guilty to possession of firearms by certain persons in Benton County Circuit Court in 2004 and received five years of probation, court documents show.
Jeffrey Aue of Gravette said he used to work out with Levi Barnes.
"He was trying to focus on getting fit," Aue said. "Since I had a few years under my belt, I kind of took him under my wing."
He said Levi was polite and always made a point to call others "sir" or "ma'am."
"He was a really good kid," Aue said. "He was raised really well."
Wilma Fladager of Bella Vista grew up in Gravette and went to church as a child with Inga's mother.
"It's disheartening," Fladager said. "You just can't imagine what would cause someone to do something like this."
Aue said a tragedy such as the shooting is apt to be difficult on the small town, where so many people know one another.
"When it hits, it hits," Aue said of the gravity of the shooting. "Everyone is kind of close."
Metro on 07/07/2019
Print Headline: Deaths of 4 kin shake Gravette as motive sought