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Carroll County's veteran State's Attorney Barnes dead

Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry Barnes, 66, died Saturday after suffering a gunshot wound that the county sheriff's office said appeared to be self-inflicted.

At about 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning, sheriff's deputies were called to a home in Westminster. It was there they discovered Barnes, and emergency personnel began to provide aid. He was taken to Carroll Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to a release from the sheriff's office.

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A lifelong Carroll County resident, Barnes was a criminal prosecutor for 38 years, including the past 20 as state's attorney. He was first elected to a four-year term in November 1994. He lost his latest re-election bid in the Republican primary in June to challenger Brian DeLeonardo. DeLeonardo was unopposed in November's general election.

Amy Blank Ocampo worked with Barnes for nearly 20 years, rising to becoming senior assistant state's attorney for Carroll County. She said she was proud to have known and worked for Barnes.

"The one thing about him that everybody knew was how passionate he was about being a prosecutor," Ocampo said. "I know that job was honestly very important to him.

"He was always full of encouragement. When I was just out of law school and knew I wanted to be a prosecutor, he took an interest in my development. I have notes of encouragement from him that I will cherish from cases where he thought I did a good job," she said.

Carmen Amedori, a former state delegate and Barnes' wife from 1988 to 2000, said Barnes was a fighter who always wanted to do the right thing.

"Jerry was a very humble and gracious man. He was very generous and he did everything he could do to help other people, and he will be very sorely missed," Amedori said. "Jerry was not only a good friend of mine, but he was also a great political mentor. He taught me what it meant to be a gracious politician."

Barnes had remarried, according to information submitted to The Baltimore Sun and the Carroll County Times during the election. His wife, Florence, could not be reached for comment. He also had a stepdaughter.

Barnes graduated from Westminster High School in 1966 and joined the military in 1968, becoming a Green Beret a year later, according to a profile in the Times. He served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 near the Laotian border and was twice awarded the Bronze Star. He was honorably discharged in 1971.

Barnes began as a Carroll County assistant state's attorney in 1977, the year he passed the bar exam, and held the position until 1989. He worked in Frederick County for several years, until his 1994 election as Carroll state's attorney.

In 1997, he was awarded a governor's citation from Gov. Parris N. Glendening for forming an office dedicated to prosecuting domestic violence cases. The year the office was established, the number of guilty verdicts in such cases increased from 55 percent in 1996 to 68 percent in 1997.

Gary Coffin was the first domestic violence investigator recruited by Barnes for the unit.

"He was very gung-ho about fighting domestic violence throughout the county. I'm going to miss the guy," Coffin said. "He's going to be missed throughout the county, and he's going to be missed in law enforcement as well."

In 1997, Barnes became the first Maryland state's attorney to receive a superintendent commendation, generally reserved for troopers for actions in the line of duty. Superintendent Col. David B. Mitchell cited Barnes' accessibility to the public as the reason for the award. The Carroll County Times reported that Barnes supported the county's anti-heroin efforts in 1998, personally paying for 250 signs and 500 bumper stickers as part of the "Heroin Kills" initiative.

Officials said Barnes' body was taken to the state medical examiner's office. The sheriff's office investigation is continuing.

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