Harrells' funeral

Gavin Maliska

Two hearses sit outside North Greenwood Baptist Church Thursday morning as mourners gather for the funeral of Jim and Brooks Harrell. The Harrells and their friend Marlee Jones were shot dead last Friday, allegedly by Jones’s husband, Michael Barnhill, during a birthday party at their Carroll County home.

Mourners overfilled North Greenwood Baptist Church Thursday to remember Jim and Brooks Harrell, the Carroll County couple killed at their home last Friday, leaving behind two young sons and a large number of family and friends.


Brooks Hooker Harrell and Jim Harrell

For two hours before the 11 a.m. funeral service, mourners filed through the church, nurses in scrubs and running shoes remembering their fellow nurse Brooks Harrell, and families with children about the same age as Allen Harrell, 15, and his brother Trace, 10.

They filed past open oak caskets, separated by a large photograph of Jim and Brooks, embracing but turning smiling faces to the camera. Two video screens on the walls at the back of the choir loft ran through 100 photos showing family scenes of vacations, birthdays and holidays. Arrangements of sunflowers and roses sat atop the caskets.

On each side of the caskets stood parents of the couple, Janet and Wyche Hooker to the left, greeting and hugging mourners, frequently wiping tears from their eyes. Patricia Favara, Jim’s mother, and her husband, Joe, stood to the right, along with Jimmy Harrell, Jim’s father, and his wife, Helen. All embraced mourners who offered comfort and condolences.

Among their grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends and classmates, moved Allen and Trace, held by and crying with their grandmothers and aunts, having awkward moments with friends and classmates who don’t yet know how to talk about such things, two children experiencing what even those much older should not have to endure.

Ushers placed chairs in the aisles of the church as the mourners numbered more than the 500 seats in the pews. Dozens more lined the walls, and another 100 people were seated in the narthex. Many more had come and gone in the hours of visitation before the funerals began.

The Harrells were killed while hosting a birthday party at their home for their friend Marlee Jones, two other women and Marlee’s husband, Michael Barnhill, who now sits in the Carroll County Jail, charged with three counts of homicide and two counts of attempted murder. Trace Harrell was upstairs in his bed asleep when the shootings occurred, and his brother, Allen, was at the home of his grandparents, the Hookers.

The program noted both Harrells were born in Greenwood. Jim, 44, grew up in Sidon, and Brooks, 39, in Cruger. They attended Cruger-Tchula Academy. Brooks went through the University of Mississippi, Delta State University and Mississippi Delta Community College before working as a nurse at Greenwood Leflore Hospital and Greenwood Orthopedic Clinic. Jim, a licensed professional land surveyor, also attended MDCC and co-owned Harrell Surveying with his brother, Trent.

Both Jim and Brooks were active members of Cruger Baptist Church, where they volunteered to use their musical talents to play guitar and sing for their praise team. Brooks taught Sunday school for pre-schoolers. Mostly, they were parents for their sons and members of their extended families, who filled three pews at the funeral.

For many of those who attended, it was a second straight day of mourning, following Wednesday’s emotional service for Marlee Jones in Winona.

The Rev. Al Different, pastor of Cruger Baptist Church, officiated at the Harrells’ funeral and praised the “love, support and ministry poured out on this family in the last six days.”

He noted how the Harrells were simply celebrating their friend Marlee’s 27th birthday one moment and then were gone the next.

“Our plans will one day collide with God’s plans,” he said. “And in that moment, lives will fall apart or fall into place. ... We’re left shaking our heads and asking the proverbial question, ‘Why?’ But there’s no making sense of such an essential act of evil.”

Different encouraged mourners to “overcome evil by doing good” and said they must decide “if this act of evil defines who we will be for the rest of our lives, or overcome it.”

The Harrells were buried at Odd Fellows Cemetery in Lexington.

Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or gmaliska@gwcommonwealth.com.

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