Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

November 9, 2012

Missing judge located, referred to crisis center

AMERICUS —  After an intense day-long search on Thursday, an Americus judge was located, “unharmed,” according to law enforcement.

Sumter County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Col. Eric Bryant confirmed Friday  that Russ Barnes, 48, of Americus, judge of the State Court of Sumter County, was found driving his vehicle at Walmart in Americus at 6 p.m. Thursday. He said that after a look out was posted for the judge, Maj. Richard McCorkle, chief investigator with the Americus Police Department, saw Barnes’ vehicle leaving the Walmart parking lot and stopped him.

Barnes had been the focus of a massive search effort which encompassed the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, Americus Police Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigations Region 3 Americus Office, Leslie and Plains police departments and the Georgia State Patrol (GSP).

Barnes was reported missing around 8 a.m. Thursday by his wife who told authorities he had last been seen around 10 p.m. Wednesday as he left their home to go to his office.

Danny Jackson, special agent in charge, GBI, confirmed that a helicopter from the GSP aviation unit was used in the search, “for several hours,” having gone up in the morning and again in the afternoon in an effort to spot Barnes’ vehicle, a black 2008 Chevrolet Suburban.

When asked why a search was launched when Barnes had not been missing for 24 hours, Col. Bryant told the newspaper, “Most of time, 24 hours is standard procedure for anyone. But based on the fact that he (Barnes) is a sitting judge and not knowing if he was in harm’s way and the manner in which he left, those  two key factors prompted us to utilize all the resources we used.” He added that Barnes had court scheduled at 9 a.m. Thursday and did not show up.

Jackson confirmed that Sheriff Pete Smith made the decision to use the helicopter, “using all the resources” they had access to. He said his agency was not involved in the search effort at that time.

Col. Bryant said after Barnes was stopped at Walmart, the judge got into the police patrol car and was taken to the Sumter County Law Enforcement Center.

“We were concerned with his state of mind,” Bryant said. “ ... It was obvious he needed to speak with someone ... He was taken to the hospital (Phoebe Sumter Medical Center) for assessment.”

Bryant said protocol calls for a mental health professional, after an assessment, to recommend whether an individual should be taken to the crisis center in Albany or to West Central Hospital in Columbus. He said Barnes was taken to the Albany facility.


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