ItHome Cardiac Arrest Eureka Man Will Answer For Murder Charges in 2018 Skateboard Attack on Good Samaritan | Lost Coast Outpost

Eureka Man Will Answer For Murder Charges in 2018 Skateboard Attack on Good Samaritan | Lost Coast Outpost

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Eureka Man Will Answer For Murder Charges in 2018 Skateboard Attack on Good Samaritan | Lost Coast Outpost

A
Eureka man has been held to answer on murder and assault charges for
striking another man with a skateboard during an altercation in Burre
Center in December 2018.

Judge
John Feeney, after listening to evidence presented in a preliminary
hearing, ruled Tuesday there was enough evidence for 47-year-old
Jason Ryan Barnes to stand trial for killing Ben Bertain and
assaulting Shaelawn Jensen-Morrow. Both had tried to intervene when
Barnes was screaming at a woman in a parking lot at Burre Center in
Eureka.



Barnes.

Bertain,
58, was hit in the left side two or three times. He declined medical
treatment at the time, but died at a Napa hospital a few days later.

Dr.
Joseph Cohen, a forensic pathologist who serves Napa and Marin
counties, testified Bertain died from a ruptured spleen. Bertain’s
abdominal cavity contained a mass of clotted blood “about the size
of a soccer ball,” Cohen said, along with nearly 1.5 liters of
blood.

“Approximately
40 to 50 percent of his total blood volume was in his abdomen,”
Cohen said under questioning by Deputy Public Defender David Celli,
representing Barnes. During the hearing Barnes sat in the courtroom
jury box, wearing a mask.

The
fatal encounter occurred about 9:15 a.m. on Dec. 22, 2018, in a
parking lot outside the laundromat in Burre Center. Laundromat
employee Jensen-Morrow testified she went outside when told a man was
screaming at woman.     

“I
saw a male aggressively yelling at (a) female,” Jensen-Morrow
testified under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees.
“She was sitting on the curb yelling ‘Just get away from me.’

Jensen-Morrow
identified Barnes as the man she saw. She said the woman sitting on
the curb “appeared quite submissive,” as Barnes was yelling that
she had stolen something from him. The woman kept saying “just to
get away and leave her alone.”
Jensen-Morrow
said she walked up to Barnes, who was carrying a skateboard, and
politely asked him to leave. He ignored her.

She
stepped between Barnes and the woman when the woman tried to leave
and Barnes blocked her. Barnes then accused Jensen-Morrow of hitting
him, and she put her hands in the air to show she wasn’t.

“He
seemed very irate,” she testified. “I didn’t want him to think
I was threatening him or taking sides.”

About
this time Bertain, who had been watching from his parked vehicle,
joined Jensen-Morrow and told Barnes it was time to leave. He
repeated that, and Barnes lifted up the skateboard with both hands
and swung it like a baseball bat.

“It
would have hit me,” Jensen-Morrow said, “but I stepped back and
then it ended up hitting Ben.”

Bertain,
hit on his left side, managed to pin the skateboard under his arm.
Then he tried to punch Barnes with his right fist. Jensen-Morrow
didn’t think the punch connected. Barnes then got the skateboard
back and struck at Bertain at least once more.

“I
said I’m calling the police and I called 9-1-1,” Jensen-Morrow
testified. “(Barnes) took off running down the length of the
shopping center.”

Afterward,
she said, Bertain stayed in the laundromat for 45 minutes to an hour,
finishing his laundry. He appeared to be in pain, Jensen-Morrow said,
but he didn’t complain about it. The police never showed up. When
she asked Bertain if he wanted an ambulance, he said no.

Bertain
always did his laundry twice a week at the Burre Center facility. He
never came back again.

About
a week later Jensen-Morrow saw Barnes looking in the window of the
laundromat and called the police.

Dr.
Cohen, who performed the autopsy, said his opinion was that the
original injury caused internal bleeding in the spleen. That blood
kept expanding over the next couple of days until the spleen
ruptured. At first the doctor couldn’t even find pieces of the
spleen in the mess of liquid and clotted blood. If the spleen would
have ruptured when Bertain was hit, Cohen testified, the organ would
be intact but lacerated.

Celli
asked whether underlying health conditions could have contributed to
or caused the death. Bertain had severe lung disease, heart disease
and had methamphetamine in his system. Celli also wondered whether
paramedics might have caused the injury when trying to resuscitate
Bertain when he “coded” on the flight from Arcata to Napa.

But
Cohen maintained he was completely convinced that Bertain’s spleen
was injured during the assault and then bled until it ruptured.

During
the time between the skateboard incident and his death, Bertain told
several people about the incident and said he was in pain. On
Christmas Day he called 9-1-1 and complained of chest pain and
shortness of breath. Paramedics found him, conscious but unable to
speak, in the storage unit he rented in Arcata.

Eureka
police Detective Corrie Watson, the lead investigator in the case,
testified that Bertain lived in the storage unit, which had no
bathroom and “a makeshift kitchen with a sink and a refrigerator.”

Bertain
was taken to Mad River Community Hospital, then flown to the hospital
in Napa. He was pronounced dead at 3:40 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2018.

The
woman Barnes was yelling at in Burre Center was named as Desiree
Henley, who was one of the suspects in the arson fire at Blue Heron
Motel on Broadway in Eureka.
Although
Barnes was held to answer for murder, it seems doubtful he will be
tried on that charge. Before the hearing began Tuesday, Celli told
Judge Feeney the district attorney had offered a five-year prison
term in exchange for Barnes’s plea to voluntary manslaughter with
use of a weapon. And during the hearing, Celli said he had come back
with an offer of involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutor
Rees responded that he wanted to finish the hearing, but he would
talk with Bertain’s family about an involuntary manslaughter plea.

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