Kent man guilty of manslaughter

By Deanna Hohler Bottar Record-Courier staff writ Published:

Marcus Barnes was handcuffed and transported from the Portage County Courthouse to the county jail Friday night after a jury of eight men and four women found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter and felonious assault.

After hearing eight days of testimony, the jury was given the task of determining whether Barnes acted with intent Nov. 22 when he fatally knifed Kent State University student Christopher Wawrin, 21, and stabbed Christopher DeAngelis, 20, six times.

The jury deliberated for a little more than four hours before returning to the courtroom.

Portage County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Kainrad ordered Barnes, who was tried for murder and attempted murder, to undergo a pre-sentence investigation through the Portage County Adult Probation Department before a sentencing date is set.

The jury determined Barnes was not guilty of murder, but guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and not guilty of attempted but guilty of felonious assault.

Barnes, 23, of Silver Meadows Boulevard in Kent, could face a definite sentence of three to 10 years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter charge and a term of two to eight years for the felonious assault count, according to Assistant Portage County Prosecutor Eugene Muldowney.

DeAngelis held his head in his hands and began to tremble as the jury announced its decision to convict Barnes of the lesser charges. Friends and family of Wawrin and DeAngelis filled the first two rows of the courtroom. Many clutched tissues and held each other in shock after the verdicts were read.

"I think we were kind of ready for it," DeAngelis' father, Frank, said of the verdict. "We were kind of wondering what courtroom the jury was in."

Muldowney said he was satisfied with the verdict.

"I think the jury did their job," he said. "We would have done the same thing (if we had it to do over again). The facts fit a murder in this case. However, the jury has the discretion in discerning the facts."

Throughout the trial, Portage County Public Defender Dennis Lager said the confrontation between Barnes, DeAngelis and Wawrin was racially motivated. Lager said Barnes acted in self-defense when he retrieved a knife from his car after a confrontation with several white men including Wawrin and DeAngelis.

During testimony Thursday and Friday, Barnes said Wawrin said, "F*** the nigger," and tried to punch him while Barnes was surrounded by a group of white, male partygoers.

Lager said Barnes, the only African-American at the all-white keg party at 976 W. Main St. in Kent, felt outnumbered and so afraid for his life he needed something to defend himself.

"If I wouldn't have had a knife, I probably wouldn't have been able to defend myself," Barnes said from the witness stand. "I probably would have gotten a really bad beating."

After the verdict was read, Wawrin's father, Andy, said his son was portrayed incorrectly during the trial. Witnesses testified that Wawrin was drunk the night of the party and had been in an altercation in the kitchen and fallen over a banister before the fight with Barnes.

"My son is a much better person than what he's been portrayed in the papers the past few weeks," he said. "I wish more could be said about how good of a person he really was."

Andy Wawrin would not say whether he thought the jury's verdict provided a sense of justice for his family.

"I felt he needed to pay for the crimes he made against my son and Christopher DeAngelis," Andy Wawrin said. "I would love to have my son back."

Wawrin died Dec. 1 at Robinson Memorial Hospital where he was taken after the fight. Medical testimony during the trial revealed Barnes severed Wawrin's axillary artery under his arm with a single stab wound.

To return a murder conviction, the jury would have had to believe the prosecution's assertion that Barnes baited Wawrin and DeAngelis toward him and then stabbed them with the intent to kill.

Muldowney also said Barnes was guilty of "bringing a deadly weapon to a fist fight."

During his testimony, Barnes said the situation was the exact opposite of murder _ that Wawrin, DeAngelis and others charged at him, knocked him into the street and attempted to beat him up.

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