A 30-year-old Mississippi man fatally shot his wife and two of her friends after they took away his keys so he wouldn’t drive drunk after a party celebrating his wife’s 27th birthday, police say. Michael Barnhill was arrested after the March 1 shooting that left his wife, Marlee Jones Barnhill, and her friends, Jim Harrell, 44, and Brooks Harrell, 39, dead in Carroll County, the sheriff’s office said.
Details in the case were revealed on March 7 when Barnhill was ordered held without bail. According to WTVA-TV, Barnhill was “drunk and belligerent” at his wife’s birthday party, which was being hosted by the Harrells, and he opened fire after Marlee Barnhill took away the keys to their truck so he couldn’t drive home.
“Marlee was trying to do the right thing to protect his life and the lives of other drivers,” Carroll County Sheriff Clint Walker told the Clarion Ledger. “We may never know why Barnhill perpetrated this horrible crime. None of the victims or survivors were doing anything other than having a small get-together to celebrate Marlee’s birthday. According to our preliminary investigation, there were no drugs involved, and very little drinking other than that done by Michael Barnhill to excess.”
Walker said in the statement, “These were all good friends having a nice time together. Michael Barnhill, however, became drunk and belligerent during the course of the evening. The others discouraged his drunkenness, and he became angry and combative.”
Here’s what you need to know about Michael Barnhill and the shooting that left Marlee Barnhill, Jim Harrell and Brooks Harrell dead:
1. Barnhill ‘Slapped a Cigarette From His Wife’s Hand & Shot Her in the Chest’ Before Shooting Jim & Brooks Harrell When They Tried to Intervene, Police Say
The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of shots fired with multiple people wounded just before midnight at a home on County Road 135, WTVA-TV reports. When deputies arrived, they found three people dead.
Carroll County Sherriff Clint Walker told the Clarion Ledger that the Harrells had been hosting a birthday party the night before Marlee Barnhill would have turned 28. Walker told the newspaper that Barnhill was “angry and combative” during the party and was drinking heavily. When his wife took away his keys, he went out to the truck and returned with a .40 caliber pistol, Walker said. He then slapped a cigarette out of his wife’s hand and shot her in the chest, Walker said. Jim Harrell tried to intervene and was also shot, according to Walker. Brooks Harrell was shot while she tried to help her husband, Walker said.
Barnhill left the home after the shooting, but returned while police were there and was “acting as though he did not know what had happened,” according to Walker. He then tried to flee from the scene and deputies had to use a stun gun to subdue him, Walker told the Clarion Ledger.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigations and the State Crime Scene Unit assisted in the investigation, Walker said.
2. The Harrells’ 10-Year-Old Son Was Asleep in His Bedroom During the Shooting & 2 Other Friends Barricaded Themselves in the Room With Him Until Police Arrived
Two other friends were in the home at the time of the shooting, along with the Harrells’ 10-year-old son, who was sleeping in his bedroom, according to police. The surviving friends, Mauri Suggs and Amber Garrard, ran to the bedroom and barricaded themselves inside with the Harrells’ son to protect him until police arrived, the Clarion Ledger reports. The women then told deputies that it was Michael Barnhill who had shot their friends, leading to his arrest.
Sheriff Clint Walker praised the victims and survivors for their “heroic” actions.
“Each victim of this crime acted out of care and concern for the welfare of others. Marlee tried to keep Michael Barnhill and those he might come into contact with safe by preventing him driving drunk. Jim Harrell acted in defense of Marlee. Brooks Harrell tried to render aid to her husband. Mauri Suggs and Amber Garrard acted to protect a defenseless child, and to warn the deputies of the danger they were facing. Our deputies remembered and acted upon their training to protect those remaining and subdue the suspect,” Walker told the Clarion Ledger. “As I’ve met with the families and friends of the victims, and with the witnesses, they have all expressed their deep gratitude to the community for the gracious outpouring of prayers and the acts of kindness shown to them during this most difficult time. I know that they all hope that these heroic acts are long remembered, and that the ones they cherished are thought of with love and admiration. During the hardest moments of their lives, they all thought of other people before themselves.”
3. Barnhill, a Logging Worker Who Had Been Married to His Wife Since 2016, Has Been Charged With 3 Counts of Homicide & 2 Counts of Attempted Murder
Michael Martin Barnhill is being held without bail at the Carroll Montgomery Regional Correctional Facility on three counts of homicide and two counts of attempted murder, according to the sheriff’s office. It is not clear if he has hired an attorney who could comment on his behalf. It’s also not known when he is scheduled to appear in court.
Barnhill and his wife had been married since 2016, according to her Facebook page. Barnhill, has a child from a previous relationship, worked for a logging company, according to his Facebook page. He is a Winona, Mississippi, native, he said on Facebook.
Barnhill does not appear to have a previous criminal record in Mississippi.
4. Marlee Jones Barnhill, Who Posted a Facebook Video About Her Upcoming Birthday Hours Before Her Death, Was a ‘Nurse, Wife, Stepmom & Dog Mom’ Who Ran a Beauty Facebook Page
Marlee Jones Barnhill, 27, died one day before her 28th birthday. On Instagram, she wrote about herself, “Nurse ??⚕️? Wife ? stepmom and dog mom ?.” She posted a Facebook Live video just hours before her death and talked about her excitement for her upcoming birthday and her goals for the upcoming month.
“I’m in such a good mood guys, can you tell. … Tonight I’m going to one of my really good friend’s houses,” she said about her plans to go to the Harrells for a birthday party. “We’re going to karaoke, and sit on her back porch and just hang out.” She signed off the tragic video saying, “Hope y’all have a great night, be safe whatever you’re doing, we’re gonna be safe, and I will talk to y’all later!”
Marlee Barnhill ran a beauty Facebook page called “Get Glamarous With Marlee.” She wrote about the page, “Hello gorgeous! This page is all about uplifting women and men, and showing you some products that I 100% stand behind. This company is amazing and these products are legit. Stick around to see more.”
She worked as a nurse at Tyler Holmes Memorial Hospital. The hospital wrote in a Facebook post, “The THMH Family will forever be grateful for the precious time we had with Marlee Barnhill. There are no words to express our heartfelt condolences to her family. We want to honor her memory and celebrate her life. Marlee’s smile was infectious. She touched the lives of her patients and co workers with kindness and joy that will never be forgotten. Our THMH Family was blessed to have had her on our team. Many prayers and much love to her family!”
A Grenada, Mississippi, native, she graduated from Winona Christian School in 2010 and then from Holmes Community College.
5. Jim & Brooks Harrell Are Survived by Their 2 Sons
Jim Harrell, 44, and Brooks Harrell, 39, are survived by their two sons, according to their obituary.
“Jim and Brooks were both born in Greenwood. Jim Grew up in Sidon and Brooks in Cruger. Both graduated from Cruger-Tchula Academy. Brooks attended Ole Miss and Delta State before receiving her RN degree from MS Delta Community College. Jim also attended MDCC,” the obituary said. “Brooks was a registered nurse and had worked for the Greenwood Leflore Hospital and the Greenwood Orthopedic clinic. Jim was a Licensed Professional Land Surveyor and co-owned Harrell Surveying with his brother Trent. He and his brother had enjoyed working together for ten successful years in their business.”
According to their obituary, “Both loved the Lord, their church and music, which was evident by their devoted participation in worship and education at the Cruger Baptist Church, where they were members. She played the bass guitar and sang while he played the guitar for their praise team. Likewise, they both shared their talent teaching children in the pre-school department. Jim loved hunting and fishing and shared many hours together with his oldest son Allen. He also enjoyed spending time with his youngest son Trace, on the baseball field. He assisted coaching his team at Stribbling park and on the Delta Storm travel team.”