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Man found guilty in hunting accident

Posted on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 10:03 am

Calling him a “scofflaw,” General District Court Judge Gordon Wilkins sentenced John Barnes to serve six months in jail after convicting him of trespassing to hunt and the reckless handling of a firearm Monday in connection with the shooting of James Marston in Heathsville May 7.

Assistant Commonwealths Attorney Elizabeth Trible called both James, who testified he was hit by shot in 29 places, and his brother, Phillip, as witnesses. Barnes testified on his own behalf.

Conservation Police Officer Ken Williams opened the Commonwealth’s case by describing what he found after reaching the scene of the shooting.

Williams and Sgt. Rich Grozka of Game and Inland Fisheries thoroughly mapped the site of the incident, including the shot path taken by Barnes’ weapon.  Both officers testified that they could clearly see the other man standing where  James Marston was hit when they were seated in the place Barnes had fired his weapon.

The Marston brothers described an unknown truck they found parked on their grandmother’s property when they arrived to turkey hunt. They said they heard no one, saw no one and found no footprints to indicate a hunter.  Phillip then made a hen turkey call and immediately heard a responding hen call. The brothers heard that distinct call move from the right of their position to directly in front of them.  Philip and James  then suspected a hunter was nearby and started whistling to alert him that others were in the woods.  The only response they received was a gun shot, which hit James and sent him to his knees.

The brothers then yelled toward the shooter, asking him to “show himself.”  When there was no response, Phillip, admittedly angry and upset, said he charged into the woods looking for the shooter.  According to Phillip, he saw no one until Barnes “popped up” from behind a fallen log.

On the stand, Barnes said he has hearing problems and hadn’t heard the whistling. He said he’d seen a gobbler and three hens. Then the hens disappeared and after that the gobbler disappeared. Moments later, Barnes said he saw white and thought it was the gobbler. He shot.

Based upon the evidence, Wilkins found Barnes guilty.

During the sentencing phase of the trial, Trible proffered evidence from three different  area residents who would have testified that they had problems with Barnes trespassing and hunting on their property.

Wilkins sentenced Barnes to twelve months in jail with six suspended, ordered him to pay restitution and court costs, required Barnes to forfeit his shotgun to the state for destruction and stripped Barnes of his hunting license for five years.

Barnes, with his lawyers, Dave Bugg and Jimmy Ward, noted an appeal. Barnes remains free on bond.