Barnes remembered, laid to rest

After Jerry Barnes died, his wife, Florence, known as "Flossie," found a Bible with certain pieces of Scripture marked along with his picture and mementos that meant a lot to the family.

The verses marked were all about sin and salvation, from Romans 3:23 ("For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. ...") to Acts 16:30-31 ("And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved").


At Barnes' funeral Friday, Chaplain Pat Geyer, of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, said the message Barnes was sending to his family was to maintain their faith so they could be reunited with him someday.

"It spoke volumes about where he knew he was headed," Geyer said.


Barnes, 66, died Saturday, Nov. 29, from a self-inflected gunshot wound to the head. He was the Carroll County state's attorney for 20 years.

"We are overwhelmed with the generosity, graciousness and love we have felt from all of our friends, extended family and close colleagues," Barnes' family wrote in the program for Barnes' memorial service at St. John Catholic Church in Westminster on Friday. Following the service, Barnes was interred in Taylorsville.

Speakers at Friday's memorial service shared stories and memories of their interaction with Barnes, who they admit was a private and quiet person except when he was among friends.

Gust Vastardis, Barnes' uncle, said Barnes loved cookouts and grilling.

"He loved good food and parties," Vastardis said.

Vastardis said he would try to remember the good times with Barnes and his family.

"I will say goodbye to Jerry until we meet again," he said.

Jeffrey Hutsell, Barnes' cousin, said people have described Barnes to him as a husband, father, mentor, friend, prosecutor and soldier.


To Judge Michael M. Galloway and attorney Edward Ulsch, who worked with Barnes as assistant state's attorneys for Carroll County in the 1970s, Barnes was "Sonny," a good friend and dedicated co-worker.

"To Sonny, being there for a friend came naturally," Galloway said. "It was something he did without thinking."

Galloway recounted how Barnes woke him up with a phone call to wish him luck the night before he took the bar exam, and after that call he was unable to get back to his previous deep sleep.

He also said Barnes was willing to listen and be supportive in any way when Galloway's wife was dying.

"To Jerry, one could not have honor unless he was loyal," Galloway said.

Galloway also said the community Barnes served will miss him.


"Sonny, if you're listening, know that you will be missed," he said.

Ulsch said he wanted to share happy memories Friday.

"I wanted to think of things that would make us smile, because it's hard to smile now," he said.

Ulsch said he and Barnes became like brothers while working together in the small state's attorney's office. Whenever he went to Barnes' parents' house, he said he couldn't leave without being fed.

When Barnes came to his house, Ulsch said one of his children remarked that Barnes was a quiet man — possibly too quiet to be a lawyer.

"Farewell to you, my old friend," Ulsch said in conclusion. "I've been thinking a lot about you."


Another member of Barnes' unofficial family was Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr., who moved into the house next to Barnes' parents' home 44 years ago.

After Barnes returned from his service in Vietnam, Beck said Barnes told him he wanted to be a lawyer and asked for help. Beck said he didn't really need much assistance to accomplish that goal.

A career prosecutor, Beck said Barnes hired an excellent staff for the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office and worked long hours himself.

U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, who worked with Barnes on countless federal investigations, said Barnes wanted to keep Carroll County a safe place to live, work and raise a family.

"Prosecution wasn't simply a job to him," Rosenstein said. "It was who he was."

At the beginning of Barnes' 20-year term as state's attorney in 1995, Rosenstein said he was faced with an appeals court decision that ordered the release of a man convicted of first-degree murder based on what amounted to a technicality.


The man, James Howard VanMetre III, had been convicted for strangling and burying a woman on a Carroll County farm, according to a Carroll County Times story. Based on the court's ruling, VanMetre could not be retried for the crime.

Rosenstein said Barnes came to the U.S. Attorney's Office and said they had to prosecute VanMetre federally, and he was eventually convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years.

"He refused to tolerate injustice," he said.

Chief Deputy State's Attorney Allan Culver spoke on behalf of the state's attorney's office Friday, and said Barnes taught him that his goal for each case should be to prepare so much that you could try the case without notes.

"I am the prosecutor I am today because of Jerry Barnes," said Culver, who worked for Barnes for 13 years.

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Barnes was not very computer savvy, according to Culver, but could often find the answer to a legal question in a law book faster than Culver could find it in an online legal database.


"If he didn't know the answer to your question, he knew where to look," Culver said.

State Sen. Joe Getty, R-District 5, spoke last on Friday, and said he had heard about Barnes' talent in the courtroom and success as a prosecutor, but Barnes' influence went beyond those things.

"He did tremendous work for our community," Getty said, mentioning Barnes' efforts to fund and build a memorial for Carroll County's Vietnam War veterans.

Before her closing prayer, Geyer hugged Barnes' wife and Jenna Wilmot, his stepdaughter.

"He is not in any more earthly pain," Geyer said in closing. "At Jerry's greatest hour of need, you were there."

Reach staff writer Heather Cobun at 410-857-7898 or email