A Winona man has been charged in the fatal shooting Friday evening of his wife and a couple in their Carroll County home as two other women and a young boy escaped with their lives.
Michael Martin Barnhill, 30, faces three counts of homicide and two counts of attempted murder. In a hearing Monday at the Carroll Montgomery Regional Correctional Facility in Vaiden, Justice Court Judge Jimmy Avant ordered Barnhill held without bond.
The victims are Brooks Hooker Harrell, 39; her husband, Jim Harrell, 44; and Marlee Jones Barnhill, 27, the wife of Michael Barnhill.
Carroll County Sheriff Clint Walker said the Barnhills had been invited to the Harrells’ home on County Road 135 just north of U.S. 82, along with Mauri Suggs and Amber Garrard, to celebrate Marlee Jones Barnhill’s birthday. The Harrells’ 10-year-old son, Trace, was also present in the home and was sleeping in his upstairs room when the shootings occurred just before midnight.
“These were all good friends having a nice time together,” Walker said in a statement. “Michael Barnhill, however, became drunk and belligerent during the course of the evening. The others discouraged his drunkenness, and he became angry and combative. His wife was in possession of the keys to their vehicle to prevent him driving away in his drunken state. Marlee was trying to do the right thing to protect his life and the lives of other drivers.”
Walker said Michael Barnhill went to his truck and returned with a .40-caliber pistol. As he became angrier, he slapped a cigarette from his wife’s hand and then suddenly shot her in the chest. As Jim Harrell tried to intervene, Barnhill shot him. When Brooks Harrell tried to help her husband, Barnhill shot her.
“The Harrells were trying to do the right thing by coming to Marlee’s aid,” Walker said.
The two other women were able to run into the house and upstairs, where they moved Trace into his closet and locked and barricaded the bedroom door, the sheriff said.
“They were doing the right thing by protecting a defenseless child,” Walker said.
Brooks Harrell’s mother, Janet Hooker, told the Commonwealth on Saturday that a neighbor along County Road 135 heard the shots and called the house to check on the Harrells. When no one answered, she walked over to their house, found the bodies on the patio and called 911.
Walker said when deputies arrived at the house a short time later, they found Jim Harrell and Marlee Jones Barnhill dead and Brooks Harrell severly injured. She died en route to a helicopter that was to transport her to a hospital in Jackson.
As deputies were clearing the residence, Walker said, they came upon Suggs, Garrard and Trace.
“Sometime later, Michael Barnhill returned to the scene, acting as though he did not know what had happened,” Walker said. “The surviving witnesses alerted the deputies that Barnhill, in fact, was the one who had murdered their friends.
“Once again, these ladies were doing the right thing, when despite their fear they warned the deputies of the danger posed by Barnhill,” the sheriff said.
Walker said Barnhill struggled with the deputies and tried to get away but was subdued after being shot with a stun gun. He was transported to the Carroll County Jail.
“We may never know why Barnhill perpetrated this horrible crime,” Walker said. “None of the victims or survivors were doing anything other than having a small get-together to celebrate Marlee’s birthday. According to our preliminary investigation, there were no drugs involved, and very little drinking other than that done by Michael Barnhill to excess.
“Each victim of this crime acted out of care and concern for the welfare of others,” Walker said. “... Rather than rumors and speculation, the truth is that each and every person involved in this tragedy, other than Michael Barnhill, ought to be praised for their heroic acts during this heinous crime.”
Barnhill worked as a logging trucker for Waugh & Waugh Logging of Duck Hill. Harrell owned his own business, Harrell Land Surveying, and worked with his brother, Trent, for the past 10 years. Brooks Harrell was a nurse formerly employed with Greenwood Orthopaedics, owned by Greenwood Leflore Hospital. Marlee Jones Barnhill, Suggs and Garrard were all either current or former employees of Greenwood Leflore Hospital.
As her last Facebook post, Marlee Jones Barnhill put up a video on Friday evening showing her putting on her makeup and talking with her friends on the social media platform. At one point she asks her husband off-camera to “put the dogs up,” tells her followers she’s going “to Brooksie’s house,” then ends with: “I hope you all have a great night. Be safe whatever you’re doing. We’re going to be safe.”
On Saturday, Suggs posted a selfie she took with Marlee Jones Barnhill, captioned, “30 min before our lives were turned upside down! I love this beautiful soul so much!”
Funeral services for her will be at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at First Baptist Church in Winona, with visitation beginning at 1 p.m. at the church. Funeral services for the Harrells will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at North Greenwood Baptist Church, with visitation from 9 a.m. until service time at the church.
Janet Hooker said the Harrells’ older son, Allen, 15, was with her in her Greenwood home when the killings occurred.
The brothers are both students at Pillow Academy — Trace a fifth-grader and Allen a ninth-grader.
On Sunday, the school scheduled prayers and talks with students for the next day and posted this to its Facebook page:
“The Pillow Academy family would like to express our love and sympathy for the families of Jim and Brooks Harrell. Please lift a special prayer for Allen and Trace Harrell. We pray that the love of God enfolds them and comforts them during this time. ...
“2 Chronicles 2:12 ‘...We don’t know what to do but our eyes are fixed on you.’”
Greenwood Leflore Hospital issued this statement Saturday: “Greenwood Leflore Hospital is very saddened to hear of this tragedy involving two of our former employees. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time.”
Walker ended his statement Monday with this: “Our God always brings victory from what the devil meant for evil. We pray that the Lord will use this awful tragedy that has befallen our community to redeem and transform lives, as only He can. Our thoughts and prayers are certainly with the families and friends of all those affected.”
•Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or email@example.com.