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An Ohio man is under arrest after the body of a woman who disappeared last summer was found on a balcony in Cleveland.
Authorities arrested Bennie Washington, 39, for the murder of his girlfriend, Audreona Barnes Saturday, according to Cleveland.com. Police say a housecleaner found Barnes’ body at Washington’s former Broadway-Slavic Village apartment on Thursday, following Washington’s March 11 eviction.
The 18-year-old Barnes, who disappeared from the area in July, was found underneath a pile of blankets and clothes on the apartment’s balcony. A medical examiner determined she died from a gunshot wound to the head.
Law enforcement officials found bullet casings adjacent to Barnes’ body as well as a bullet hole in a wall inside the residence, according to Cleveland.com. In the weeks leading up to Washington’s arrest, police say they received reports of the suspect’s “erratic public behavior.” When authorities approached Washington one day before his arrest, he allegedly ran into someone’s home and jumped out a window, according to court records cited by Cleveland.com.
Audreona Barnes disappeared on July 30 following a visit to a local U.S. Army recruiting officer and was last seen at a gas station not far from where she was found, according to Cleveland.com. Barnes called her family at 2:30 p.m. on the day of her disappearance.
“I know that speaking with the recruiters, they picked [Barnes] up at her boyfriend's house in Cleveland,” Warrensville Heights Police Det. Gregory Curry told Cleveland 19 News. “They then dropped her back off there. They just don’t know if she went back into the apartment or if she walked away.”
Barnes’ mother, Akua Avegnon, told Cleveland 19 News that her daughter had hoped to serve her country.
“The last time I talked to Audreona was the 30th of July. We actually had plans together. It was plans for the whole family," said Avegnon. "Later on that night, she sent a text message to my boyfriend asking for a ride that didn't seem like it came from her. And that was the last time anyone has heard or spoken to her. The last place I know she was was at her boyfriend’s house.”
Concerns grew when Barnes’ phone was turned off, Avegnon explained to the local outlet. Relatives also said she’d left her shoes and clothes at home and had no money.
Police attempted to speak with Washington earlier in the investigation, but Washington allegedly refused to help officers.
“My partner and I walked up [and] introduced ourselves to him, and he blew up on us. ‘I hate police,’ called us all kinds of names. Basically, he was attacking my partner,” said Curry. “He eventually asked for an attorney and just walked away and went into his building.”
Washington has several criminal convictions in his past, including felony assaults, gun possession as a felon, vandalism, drug possession, and others, according to Cuyahoga County court records reviewed by Oxygen.com. In June, Washington was charged with arson, assault, and aggravated menacing in a separate case.
In 2019, Washington was charged with allegedly raping a 3-year-old girl at a West Side home, according to Cleveland.com. The child’s grandmother alerted authorities to the alleged rape after the girl told her grandmother what had happened.
Washington was also convicted of shooting a woman in the back in 2010 over a $40 cocaine debt, for which he was sentenced to seven years in prison.
For Audreona Barnes’ homicide, Washington was arrested on charges of aggravated murder and gross abuse of a corpse. It was unclear whether he has retained legal representation or entered a plea for the charges.
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