Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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February 27, 2013

Princeton man sentenced to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder

PRINCETON — A Princeton man was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the February 2012 shooting death of another city resident.

Lorenzo Christopher Barnes, 23, of Princeton, appeared before Mercer Count Circuit Court Judge Omar Aboulhosn for a plea hearing and sentencing. Barnes was arrested Feb. 5, 2012, and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Jason Hicks, 30, of Princeton. Hick’s body was found Feb. 2, 2012, on North Wickham Avenue. Hicks died as the result of a gunshot wound to the neck.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kelli Harshbarger said the evidence would have shown that Barnes had agreed to sell controlled substances to Hicks, but instead tried to sell him aspirin. Hicks was then shot and killed in a struggle. Car window glass was found at the scene.

Barnes later went to Beckley with his girlfriend, Ash said after the hearing. Telephone records indicated that he called auto glass businesses to get his car’s widow replaced. Failing that, he had his car crushed. Auto glass found at the scene of the shooting and in Barnes’ car were “consistent” with each other, Ash stated.

Ash said later that the Princeton Police Department found what appeared to be a bullet hole in what was the crushed car’s rear window area. Barnes told a witness that he had struck Hicks with his .45 handgun and it discharged accidentally, hitting him in the right side of the neck. Barnes was sitting in his car, and Hicks was outside the vehicle when he was shot.

A .45 handgun was later found near Wickham Avenue after West Virginia State Police cadets conducted a search, Ash said. The weapon was “associated” with Barnes after a witness stated that he possessed such a firearm, but there was no definite connection that showed the gun found at Wickham Avenue belonged to him.

Hicks had a little more than $1,000 on him when he was killed, Ash said. Hicks’s uncle, Stacy Hicks, said after Aboulhosn asked if any family members wished to speak that his nephew had been shot when Barnes tried to steal the money. Jason Hicks had received the funds in his tax refund.

Stacy Hicks said the legal system had shown mercy with the plea agreement, but his nephew did not receive the same treatment when he was killed.

“Jason wasn’t granted mercy,” Stacy Hicks said to Barnes. “My nephew had no protection...my nephew was left like an animal on the side of the road.”

Barnes is currently serving a 1 to 5 years sentence at the Mount Olive Correctional Center for delivery of a controlled substance, Ash said. The attorneys representing Barnes, Ward Morgan and Harold Wolfe, asked that the sentence Barnes is currently serving and the second-degree murder sentence run concurrently. Barnes himself also asked for concurrent sentencing when addressing the court.

Aboulhosn denied this request, saying that concurrent sentences would “denigrate the seriousness of what happened that day. You took the life of a young man over a silly incident.”

Barnes then apologized to the victim’s family. “I repent every day for it,” he said. “I am sorry to the bottom of my heart.”

Barnes could be eligible for parole in 11 and a half years, Ash said later.

Ash said local police quickly identified Barnes as a suspect after the murder.

“The Princeton Police did a marvelous job on this,” he stated.

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