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State's attorney Jerry Barnes dead from apparent suicide

Jerry Barnes
Jerry Barnes (Submitted photo)

Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry Barnes died Saturday morning from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to a news release from the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.

Around 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Carroll County sheriff's deputies responded to a report of an attempted suicide at a home in Westminster. It was there that they discovered Barnes and that EMS personnel began to provide aid. He was taken to Carroll Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to the release.

Barnes, 66, a lifelong resident of Carroll County, had served as the county's state's attorney for the past 20 years.

Amy Blank Ocampo worked with Barnes in the state's attorney's office for nearly all of that time. She said she was proud to have known and worked for him.

"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. The other thing about him is that 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."

Carmen Amedori, who served in the House of Delegates for District 5 and was Barnes' wife from 1988 to 2000, said that Barnes was a fighter who always wanted to protect everyone and 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 graduated from Westminster High School in 1966 and joined the military in 1968, becoming a Green Beret a year later, according to his candidate profile in the Carroll County Times. He served in the Vietnam Special Forces Group from 1969 to 1970 in three camps near the Laotian border and was twice awarded the Bronze Star before being honorably discharged in 1971.

Barnes began as a Carroll County assistant state's attorney in 1977, the year he passed the bar exam, and left the position in 1989. After working in Frederick County for several years, Barnes was elected Carroll County state's attorney in 1994. In 2014, he lost the election for the state's attorney position to Brian DeLeonardo, who is to take over the role in January.

Barnes leaves behind a legacy of defense for victims of domestic violence throughout his 20-year career. According to an article from the Times, Barnes was awarded a governor's citation from Gov. Parris Glendening for forming an office dedicated solely to prosecuting domestic violence cases in 1997. The year the office was established, the percentage of guilty verdicts in Carroll County domestic violence cases increased from 55 percent in 1996 to 68 percent in 1997.

Gary Cofflin was the first domestic violence investigator Barnes recruited for his specialty unit. Cofflin said Barnes was dedicated to being the best state's attorney he could be.

"He was very gung-ho about fighting domestic violence throughout the county. I'm going to miss the guy," Cofflin said. "He had a lot of accomplishments throughout the county. He's going to be missed in law enforcement as well as by the rest of the county."

In 1997, Barnes became the first Maryland state's attorney to receive a superintendent commendation, generally reserved for state troopers in the line of duty. Superintendent Col. David B. Mitchell cited Barnes' accessibility to the public as reasoning for the award.

In addition to his work combating domestic violence, Barnes supported the county's anti-heroin efforts in 1998, paying out of pocket for 250 signs and 500 bumper stickers in the "Heroin Kills" initiative, according to a Times story.

State's attorney-elect Brian DeLeonardo posted a statement on Facebook: "I am so incredibly saddened to hear the news of State's Attorney Jerry Barnes' passing today. He gave many years of dedicated service to our country and Carroll County. I am still in shock over the tragic news. My thoughts and prayers certainly go out to his family. As to the members of the States Attorney's Office, know that my thoughts are with you as well during this difficult time."

Barnes leaves behind a wife, Florence, and a stepdaughter, according to candidate profiles submitted to The Baltimore Sun and the Times.

Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 of jacob.denobel@carrollcountytimes.com.

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