CARROLLTON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man shot and killed his wife and two other people at her birthday party last week after she tried to stop him from driving drunk, investigators said.
Michael Barnhill, 30, of Winona, is charged with three counts of homicide and two counts of attempted murder, news outlets reported.
Carroll County Sheriff Clint Walker said Barnhill is jailed without bond. It was not immediately clear Wednesday whether Barnhill is represented by an attorney who could comment on the charges.
Witnesses told investigators that Marlee Jones Barnhill kept the keys to the couple’s truck during the gathering Friday, the night before what would have been her 27th birthday.
“These were all good friends having a nice time together,” Walker said in a statement released after Barnhill appeared in court on Monday. “Michael Barnhill, however, became drunk and belligerent during the course of the evening. The others discouraged his drunkenness, and he became angry and combative.”
The sheriff said Marlee Barnhill kept the truck keys “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.
Walker said Michael Barnhill got a pistol out of the truck, slapped a cigarette out of her hand and shot her in the chest, then fatally shot the party’s hosts, 44-year-old Jim Harrell and his 39-year-old wife, Brooks Harrell. Two other women went upstairs to protect the Harrells’ 10-year-old son, who was asleep.
Marlee Barnhill and Jim Harrell died at the home, and Brooks Harrell died as emergency responders were taking her to a helicopter that was waiting to fly her to a Jackson hospital, the sheriff said.
Walker said Michael Barnhill left the home but returned while deputies were there, and he acted as though he didn’t know what happened. The surviving witnesses, though, identified him as the shooter and the deputies arrested him after a brief struggle, Walker said.