Sex, Lies, and Legal Red Tape
Accuser of Jailed Sex Offender Kenneth Barnes Says He's Innocent
Marian says she's dope sick.
The 20-year-old sits on the top step of a two-story building in an industrial park in Catonsville, sucking on a menthol cigarette. Her thin frame is lost in oversized jeans and parka. She says she first began using heroin when she was 10, and she feels like she's headed down the same path as her sister Tabby, who died of an overdose in 2006.
Marian is taking a break after her first lie-detector test, which she failed. Inside a vacant office behind her, private investigator Mike McQuillan waits with his equipment for the girl to return for a second round of questions. McQuillan is there at the request of a woman Marian knows as "Miss Pat," who is watching nervously between the closed venetian blinds of the office. Marian has not yet been told that Miss Pat is Pat Winchild, the mother of Kenneth Barnes, a man who pleaded guilty to molesting Marian almost a decade ago. Winchild has been trying to clear her son's name ever since ("The Boogeyman of Roland Park," Feature, Aug. 8).
The second test is the same as the first. McQuillan, his voice soft but insistent, asks Marian questions about Barnes, interspersed with simpler questions to test for truthfulness. "Are you wearing jeans?" comes in the same tone as "Did Kenny Barnes rape you?" And the same flat answer comes back: "yeah."
After she has failed another test and smoked another cigarette, McQuillan calls Marian back into the room. This time he asks Winchild, who has been listening in the hallway, to join them. Inside, McQuillan tells the girl he believes she is lying and introduces Winchild as the mother of Ken Barnes. McQuillan asks Marian what really happened between her and the man she knew as Kenny.
The answer comes in one word: "Nothing."
That is what Winchild has been waiting for years to hear. She begins crying and leaves the room in tears.
"He didn't do anything to her," she says between sobs. "She told the truth. . . . Oh my god. Oh my god.
"All this that Ken has gone through," she says, "all this that he has gone through in prison . . . I don't know how parents-even when their son or daughter is guilty-how they live through this, but to know he's innocent-"
Kenneth Barnes, who is mentally ill, has been in solitary confinement and unable to receive visitors for the past six months since refusing a drug test, a refusal his mother says has more to do with his paranoia than any drug use. He is listed, under the incorrect name "Julius J. Barnes," as an inmate at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown.
In 1998 Barnes pleaded guilty to molesting Marian when she was 8. Barnes took an Alford plea, under which he did not confess to the crime but admitted that the prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. His mother, who was his guardian at the time, says she agreed to the plea, after a brief meeting with his attorney, because it meant Barnes would serve no jail time. Going to court, she felt, was a gamble: his word against Marian's. The girl's word was the only evidence against him. That decision has haunted her since.
Barnes stayed out of jail until 2005, when his presence near a Roland Park school alarmed neighbors, who found him listed on the state sex-offender registry. He had failed to change his address on the registry and went to jail for a year and a half. Shortly after his release, he was arrested again and sent back to jail for violating his parole-for "presenting a danger to others"-after being seen at area sno-ball stands. Barnes' attorney, Flynn Owens, called the offense "a thought crime."
After the story appeared about Barnes in City Paper earlier this year, Winchild redoubled her efforts to clear her son's name. She began frequenting the Pigtown and Morrell Park neighborhoods where Marian had been seen. In September, she found Marian, who says she was working as a prostitute on Washington Boulevard. Winchild attempted to place Marian in drug-rehab programs, taped interviews, and arranged a meeting with McQuillan, who never accepted any money for administering the lie-detector test. Winchild says she never paid the girl for her time or information. Winchild says she lived in fear that Marian, who is homeless, would wind up dead or in jail before the meeting.
In October Winchild contacted her state senator, Delores Kelley, who in turn wrote a letter to Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler asking him to look into the Barnes case. Assistant Attorney General Stuart Nathan, in a response to Kelley, wrote that the revocation of Barnes' parole seemed "reasonable" under the circumstances, and declined to comment on attempts to vacate Barnes' original guilty plea. A motion by Owens seeking a new trial on the grounds that Barnes had not been told about the sex-offender registry when he took the plea remains undecided in Baltimore City court. At an August hearing, Barnes proclaimed his innocence on the original charge despite a prosecuting attorney's objections and a judge's warnings.
"I didn't do it," he said then. "The court has ignored all that from the beginning."
Contacted for this story, Owens says he hasn't had time to fully research the new development, but from a legal standpoint he isn't sure whether it changes anything, unless the original Alford plea is overturned. If the motion to vacate Barnes' guilty plea is granted, he says, the state's attorney would have the choice whether to re-prosecute Barnes. Last week, McQuillan said he had sent his files to the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office.
When Marian first accused Barnes, in 1996, he was dating her sister Tabitha, who was using drugs and working as a prostitute. Marian now says it was jealousy over her sister's closeness with Barnes, and a desire to break them up, that led her to accuse him of rape.
"The only way I knew how to stop him," she says in an interview after the tests were over, "was if I made it to where she was never able to see him again."
By the time she made her accusation, rumors had already been swirling around Barnes, a strange man living in a close-knit neighborhood who invited neighbors, including children, into his house for Kool-Aid, and who had taken pictures of Marian at her sister's birthday party. Marian says that the idea to accuse him came when a woman with the local neighborhood watch approached her with a question. "I was a little kid, but I was thinking hard about how I could get him away from my sister," Marian recalls. "And [the neighbor] came up to me out of the blue one day and was like, 'Has Kenny ever sexually touched you?' And I'm like, 'Yeah-he raped me. He beat me and raped me.' And the police came. I told the police the same story.
"Kenny was changing my sister. She wasn't getting high as much. I think-I know-that if I hadn't made that lie up that she'd be alive today, because Kenny calmed my sister down a lot. She didn't have to go out and trick because he did anything and everything for her-he gave her everything. The only thing he asked of her was that she slowed down getting high, and she slowed down. Eventually, he could've gotten her to stop. I could see it in my sister's eyes-she was starting to fall for Kenny, and I wasn't going to let that happen. I was just so jealous of my sister. Me and my sister Tabby, out of the whole family we were the only two that stuck together, all our lives, me and Tabby. Until she died."
Marian says she was unaware of Barnes' current incarceration; she says she saw him in the neighborhood a few months after the trial and assumed that the affair was all over. She acknowledges that once she agreed to take a lie-detector test she knew the truth would come out "that I lied about Kenny."
"He did all those years for something he didn't do," she says. "I didn't know he did all them years. I should have known he was going to do time. Rape is not a petty charge. It's serious."
Marian has been arrested several times for charges of drugs and prostitution since entering the adult criminal justice system in 2005, but prosecutors have declined to pursue most of the charges against her. She was found guilty of assault in 2007. "I got drunk and beat somebody, apparently," she says. "Beat somebody up with a wrench. I don't remember doing nothing until I woke up in a holding cell. It's not funny, but that's what drinking does to me. I'm a violent drunk."
Outside the conference room where Marian sat for an interview, Winchild embraces her, thanks her for telling her story, and says she will do her best to find a rehab program that will take her. Marian says she is homeless and pregnant but has been living with a friend who recently received an eviction notice. On Wednesday, Nov. 28, when Winchild tried to contact Marian about placement in a pregnancy and addiction-treatment facility, she found that the girl had been arrested the previous night. As of Friday, Dec. 30, she was being held at Baltimore's Central Booking facility, according to Division of Pretrial Detention and Services spokeswoman Barbara Cooper, for violating her probation on drug-possession charges."
Barnes has developed a small but vocal group of supporters over the years. In addition to his mother, Owens, and McQuillan, Dr. Robert Fiscella-a Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatrist who has treated Barnes over the past 10 years-has written that he does not believe Barnes is a sex offender. After accusing him of rape years ago, Marian also has nothing but praise for Barnes.
"Kenny was the best person you'd ever want to meet," she says. "He needs to be home with his mother. . . . I give it to her, though, she didn't give up on her son. That's one hell of a mother right there. All those years, anybody else would have given up. I just can't believe it took her eight years to find me. I was down on Washington Boulevard. Same place where she first found me. Five years now. Five years. Since I was 15. I'm out there every day."
For Want of a Horse (4/28/2010)
Will this generation of arabbers be Baltimore's last?
Robert Strupp Leaving Community Law Center (4/8/2010)
Culture Shock (3/24/2010)
A subculture of the city's Latino community shows signs of growth
Radio Remington (11/11/2009)
A community-art project helps kids tell the story of their neighborhood
What's the 311? (10/21/2009)
What's the 311? (10/14/2009)
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201