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Manatee, Sarasota team up to work homicide

MANATEE — Authorities found the burning and dismembered body of Roy Barnes Jr. in Manatee, but his ties to Sarasota are being investigated by agencies in both counties in order to find his killer.

Investigators with sheriff’s offices in Manatee and Sarasota, as well as the Sarasota Police Department, worked together Thursday, a day after firefighters found Barnes’ body on fire behind businesses in the 7900 block of U.S. 41, adjacent to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

Manatee sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow said detectives are following up on leads generated in Sarasota on Wednesday, as well as looking at Barnes’ extensive arrested record in Sarasota.

Sarasota Police Capt. William Spitler said Barnes, 35, has been arrested 29 times in the city and county, and court records show convictions for possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of marijuana and possession of prescription pills.

Sarasota sheriff’s records show deputies responded to 47 incidents involving Barnes since 1991. Most recently, authorities arrested him in May on a charge of disorderly intoxication. “He is not a stranger to us by any means,” Spitler said.

Bristow said it is still unclear where Barnes was killed, and if it can be established his death occurred in Sarasota, authorities there may take over the investigation.

An autopsy gave a pre- liminary indication of how he died, but Bristow declined to say what killed him. “The autopsy showed us some things,” Bristow said.

Detectives have been tight-lipped on details of the investigation since a motorist spotted a fire off U.S. 41 that firefighters discovered was Barnes’ body.

Early on in the investigation Wednesday, detectives seized a truck from a home in Sarasota on Lelani Boulevard and questioned for several hours a woman who owned the truck. Investigators later released her, and she proclaimed her innocence, saying she had “been in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Detectives also searched the home where the truck was parked in search of evidence. Bristow declined to say what brought detectives to the truck and home, and said detectives are still awaiting information on evidence collected.

Bristow said Barnes’ arrest history is being closely examined by detectives but said the motive for his killing is unknown.

Greg Arnold, a former homicide detective and a criminologist at State College of Florida, said looking at a victim’s past criminal history is crucial, but cannot be relied upon to tell the whole story when investigating a homicide.

“It tells you something about a person,” said Arnold. “But you can’t have tunnel vision in an investigation like this. You have to look at all the factors in a person’s life. It could just as easily be a personal circumstance or encounter that leads to a crime like this.”