Odell Barnes, Jr.

Wichita County, Texas
Date of Crime:  November 29, 1989
Executed March 1, 2000

Odell Barnes, Jr., was convicted of the murder of Helen Bass, his friend and lover. He was sentenced to death. Bass, 42, was beaten and stabbed with a kitchen knife, then killed with a gunshot to the head. While driving by in a car, witness Robert Brooks claimed to have seen Barnes, wearing coveralls, hurdle a fence in Bass's backyard at 10:30 p.m.  Brooks allegedly witnessed this event under bad lighting conditions from 40 yards away while wearing tinted glasses. He first made this statement before it was known that Bass did not arrive home from work until 11:30 p.m. In addition, Brooks barely knew Barnes. According to the prosecution theory, Barnes kicked in her back door at 10:30 p.m. and waited an hour for her to return home. Such a theory seems dubious given Barnes's relationship with Bass and the fact that Barnes's mother was picking up Bass from work at 11:15 p.m. A shoe print found on the back door and mentioned in a police report, was wiped clean. Given Barnes's 14EEE shoe size, it easily could have been used to identify or exonerate him.

There were numerous splashes of blood spread widely around the room where Bass's body was discovered. Since the killer was alleged to have worn coveralls in committing the crime, it would seem likely that his coveralls would contain a fair amount of blood spatter. However, coveralls allegedly belonging to Barnes contained only two tiny bloodstains. At trial these bloodstains were identified as being of Bass's blood type. DNA tests later showed that the blood did come from Bass. Tests also revealed that the blood contained citric acid, which is a preservative used in stored blood. The medical examiner concluded that the stains did not come from natural bleeding of a normal human being. Thus the bloodstains presumably were planted using a vial of Bass's stored blood. Barnes's mother testified that Barnes arrived home about 11:50 p.m. that night wearing a tan coat and gray pants rather than coveralls as the prosecution claimed.

Brooks initially said he was alone in his car when he saw Barnes. His sister, Bobbie Jean Brooks, later said that she was with him in the car. She could not formally identify Barnes, but she did say her brother told her that the person they saw was not Barnes. Subsequent to Barnes's trial, additional witnesses have come forward and have implicated another man as Bass's murderer. Appeals based on the post-conviction evidence were unsuccessful and Barnes was executed on March 1, 2000.  [1/07]


References:  Justice: Denied, Texas Defender Service, Houston Press

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Northeast Texas Cases, Defendants Executed by Texas