Lisa Hlavinka | The Gazette
MEDINA â€” According to his neighbors, Gary Barnett was a friendly man and a decent neighbor â€” except when he was drinking.
Misty Pearce said she believes Barnett was intoxicated the night he was stabbed to death. Pearce lives in Building B of the Branch Road apartments; Barnett lived in Building A, 875 Branch Road.
Around 6 p.m. Monday, her two sons were playing outside with other boys that live in the apartments when she claims Barnett threw a whiskey bottle at Jennifer Hellenbargerâ€™s 11-year-old son.
Robert Ritenour Jr., 8, holds up the whiskey bottle Gary Barnett allegedly threw at Ritenourâ€™s 11-year-old friend Monday. Police later found Barnett, 60, stabbed to death. (Lisa Hlavinka | Gazette)
â€œIt came within a foot to two feet of hitting him,â€ Pearce said. â€œThe kid didnâ€™t do anything.â€
Pearce called police, but Barnett did not answer the door when officers arrived.
â€œIt got real quiet when the cops pulled in, so I think he knew they were there,â€ she said. â€œI had the bottle in my possession and all the kids told them what happened, so it was enough for them to get him for public drunkenness.â€
Pearce called police once more at 7:19 p.m. after she claims Barnett shouted threats he was going to kill her.
Pearce said as she yelled back at Barnett, she also could hear him in a verbal altercation with his niece, Tracy Jewel Salter-Johnson, who is charged in Barnettâ€™s murder.
â€œHe was yelling at me, yelling at her, and then heâ€™d yell back at me again,â€ she said.
Then Pearce said Salter-Johnson closed the sliding glass door of Barnettâ€™s apartment, cutting off all communication.
â€œShe just walked up very politely and slid the door closed,â€ Pearce said. â€œThen the next thing I know, everyone is saying Garyâ€™s dead.â€
Hellenbarger, whose son was nearly hit with the liquor bottle, awoke at 4:30 a.m. to hear police wheeling Barnettâ€™s body out of the apartment. She also lives in Building A.
Pearce said Barnett and his sister, Salter-Johnsonâ€™s mother, were carnival workers.
â€œSomeone said that (Salter-Johnson) would watch the apartment while he was on circuit,â€ she said. â€œShe was in and out all the time.â€
Pearce and Hellenbarger claimed Barnett had fights with neighbors in the past, especially when he was drinking.
â€œWe used to mow the grass together,â€ Pearce said. â€œHe seemed like a nice guy, and then last night, I donâ€™t know, he really shocked me.â€
Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.