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Murder suspect’s former cell mate takes stand

Nelson Barnes said his cell mate confessed to the crime in 2015.

It wasn’t the crime the man found himself most recently accused of that October, a drug case that sent him to the Fulton Diagnostic and Reception Center. Barnes, serving a sentence for receiving stolen property, said Darious Ashton Lucas told him about a grisly shooting he took part in that left two people dead just north of Columbia.

Barnes recounted his time with Lucas at FDRC to a Boone County jury on Wednesday, a key witness for the prosecution. Lucas faces two counts of first degree murder and two counts of armed criminal action for the deaths of James Richardson and Kenneth Long in September 2015. The two bodies were recovered from an abandoned trailer park lot on Mexico Gravel Road.

Judge Kevin Crane told the jury that the state had just a few witnesses left, and anticipated they would be considering a verdict sometime Thursday.

Assistant prosecutor Stephanie Morrell presented evidence the entire day, including forensic experts and detectives from the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. Morrell attempted to build the case that Lucas murdered the men after a drug dealing disagreement between Lucas and Richardson. Defense attorneys David Wallis and Gerlad Jackson claim evidence against Lucas is circumstantial, and questioned the accuracy of the state’s evidence.

Barnes’ testimony lasted more than an hour as Wallis aggressively attacked his story and motive for cooperating with investigators. Barnes claimed Lucas talked openly about the night he arranged to meet Richardson, angered that he provided him with fake cocaine to sell. According to Barnes, Lucas told him that he shot Richardson inside the man’s truck, then ordered Long to clean up the blood.

“Mr. Lucas asked him to clean the blood, just start wiping because he was worried about fingerprints,” Barnes said.

Barnes reached out to investigators four times, promising to lead them to evidence such as the murder weapon. Wallis focused on that relationship, and Barnes’ requests for help in his ongoing criminal cases. Barnes asked Boone County prosecutor Dan Knight for help in dropping his Callaway County case, credit for time served toward his current sentence, $3,200 in restitution waived, a transfer to a different prison and a Crime Stoppers cash reward.

Barnes said he was driven by a desire to help the community and the families of the victims. Any conflicts in his accounts of what happened would have come from Lucas, he claimed.

“Mr. Lucas told me various conflicting statements,” Barnes said, leaning forward toward Wallis. “And if he told it to me, I wrote it at that time.”

Wallis said in his opening statement that Lucas only knew details of the murders because deputies shared them with him. The search warrant prepared for his drug arrest contained several details, and detectives also spoke about specifics of the crime scene after his arrest.

Morrell linked Lucas to the crime from the bullets used. Only three people purchased the Radically Invasive Projectiles, or RIP bullets, in the Columbia area. One box was purchased by Lucas’s girlfriend. Cell phone records also show Lucas called Richardson minutes before his death and Long’s death.

State Highway Patrol crime lab technicians also testified at the end of the day. Jason Crafton, a firearm expert, said he analyzed the bullets and their casings that came from the crime scene. A later test of a suspected firearm used in the crime – a stolen Highway Patrol trooper’s service weapon – showed some signs that the casings came from it. Jackson attempted to discredit the science used, called “tool mark analysis,” by citing a 2016 report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology that denounced the scientific value of such evidence.

A DNA analyst for the crime lab also testified that a mixture of several people’s DNA was found on the gun. The lab was unable to match the DNA because of the amount found.

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