On the night of Dec. 14, 2018, Benny Barefield, a father of 10, was shot and killed in his car as he talked on the phone outside his Middletown home.
Barefield’s red Buick Lucerne moved forward and struck a stop sign at the corner of Yankee Road and Ninth Avenue just a couple blocks from his house.
A year later, no one is charged with Barefield’s homicide, but police say that doesn’t mean it isn’t solved.
Middletown police arrested two men and one teen and identified another man for the the shooting death just days after it happened. All were charged with aggravated murder or complicity to aggravated murder as well as other felonies, including participating in a criminal gang.
A video from Barefield’s home security camera captured the murder, showing a person in a hooded sweatshirt shooting three times. Police said they were able to identify the alleged shooter and those who played a part in the crime through witnesses.
When the case was presented to a Butler County grand jury two months later, no charges were returned, and the suspects were freed. Middletown police say the ongoing investigation points to the same suspects
“Oh yes, no doubt. We got the right suspects,” said Middletown Major Scott Reeve.
Detectives continue to investigate the case and follow up on any tips they receive, he said.
When the grand jury declined to indict the suspects, Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said grand jury is independent from police agencies and prosecutors.
“They are entitled to make their own decision, and those decisions are what guide the prosecution of cases,” Gmoser said in March. “The grand jury decided at this time in history there was insufficient evidence that rose to a level of at least probable cause with admissible evidence to proceed to a trial.
“But that does not mean that the case is over. I would rather have this happen now, (rather) than acquittal on evidence that was insufficient to convict.”
Investigators could again pursue charges against the suspects if new evidence is presented.
Gmoser, when asked about the case recently, said that “the case is still active. It is still under investigation. When there is additional evidence, it will go back to the grand jury and we will put justice in progress.”
The anniversary of Barefield’s death is very difficult for the family, especially coupled with the holidays.
“We haven’t hearing anything (about the case),” said Dia Arnold, Barefield’s sister. “It is so hard on his kids, some of them are young. We miss him so much.”
Police believe Barefield’s death, as well as others unsolved in the city, are tied to gang violence.
“They need to get that gang off the street,” Arnold said.
She said a memorial the family and friends erected to Barefield at Yankee and Ninth, including an nearly life-size picture, has been vandalized numerous times.
“They are so disrespectful,” Arnold said. “We had to take it down … so hurtful.”
Barefield had some brushes with police and the court system, but in recent years he worked to take care of his family and was involved in community events.
In May, Benwan Edwards, Barefield’s son, and several others who police say are part of a “drug ring” were federally indicted on drug charges. Those cases are pending in federal court.
At the time of the arrests, then-Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said the “drug ring” is believed to have a direct or indirect connection to the homicides of Barefield, Teresa Shields and Kapriece Fuller. All remain unsolved.
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