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Murder suspect commits suicide following manhunt

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Crime scene

By John Balch

News-Leader staff

The suspect wanted in the shooting death of an Athens woman the morning of Friday, July 10 ended a manhunt the next day by committing suicide, according to Howard County Sheriff Bryan McJunkins.

The Howard County Sheriff’s Department received a call around 8:30 a.m. that someone had just shot Betty Burgess, 50, at her home on Highway 246 in Athens. Sheriff’s deputies and investigators responded to the scene along with the personnel from Arkansas State Police, 9th Judicial Drug Task Force, Pike County Sheriff’s Department and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Officials learned from witnesses that Tony Barnes, 56, of Nathan, shot Burgess twice with a shotgun as he stood in the home’s backdoor. Burgess was pronounced dead at 

the scene by the Howard County Coroner.

Barnes reportedly left the residence with the shotgun in his orange Ford Ranger and  and the ASP began investigating the scene while other agencies began a manhunt to find Barnes. A warrant for first-degree murder was issued for Barnes that day and a search warrant was executed at his home on Muddy Fork Road, north of Nashville.

Around 12 noon Saturday, calls began to come in reporting Barnes’ possible location and he was last seen in the Newhope area on Highway 369 headed toward his home.

Officials arrived at Barnes’ home just a few minutes after he did and they positioned themselves around the home before learning Barnes was near a pond bank on his property. Officers noted Barnes was carrying a long gun. “At approximately 1:10 p.m., officers heard a single gunshot fired and cautiously approached Barnes. Officers then saw that Barnes. had used the shotgun to kill himself.”

Barnes had a lengthy criminal history and local law enforcement officers were “very familiar with him,” according to McJunkins.

Barnes was the subject a manhunt in June 2013 and charged and later convicted of with three counts of aggravated assault, two counts of theft of property, two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and fleeing.

Barnes had stolen Winnebago camper from a campsite on Lake Greeson. While investigating the crime, Pike County deputies encountered Barnes who reached for a pistol in his waistband while deputies tried to remove him a from a vehicle. Barnes was “tased” but was able to break free and exited the vehicle with the firearm and officers took cover. Barnes kept stating that he wanted the deputies to shoot him. He then fled the area and was later pursued through a hayfield near his mother’s home in Nathan. His mother said Barnes had left the home and was walking towards the Nathan store. He was found later in a wooded area holding a gun to his own head.

In August 2006, Barnes was charged with trying to run over Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officers Virgil and Nate Hellums who were looking for Barnes after he had displayed a firearm in “a manner that created a substantial risk of death or serious injury to another person.”

The officers were on foot when they spotted Barnes’ vehicle on a Weyerhaeuser road. They attempted to stop him and Barnes turned his vehicle in an attempt to run over them. Both officers fired on the vehicle but Barnes was able to get away and was not found until two days later. He was also convicted in Howard County for these crimes.