A Mississippi woman celebrating her birthday had no clue it would be her last. When she grabbed her husband's keys to prevent him from driving home drunk, he grabbed a gun and fatally shot her and two friends, police say.
Michael Martin Barnhill was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the March 1 shooting deaths of his wife, Marlee Barnhill and friends Jim and Brooks Harrell. Marlee was marking her 27th birthday at the Harrells' home when the shooting started shortly before midnight, police said.
Carroll County Sheriff Clint Walker said Michael Barnhill had become "drunk and belligerent," and then "angry and combative," at the party, prompting Marlee to grab the keys to both of their vehicles so he wouldn't drive drunk.
Then, Barnhill "went outside to the vehicle, went back inside, slapped a cigarette from his wife's hand, and shot her in the chest," Walker said, according to WTVA, a Tupelo, Mississippi-based news organization.
The Harrells attempted to intervene, but were fatally shot as well, according to the sheriff.
Two other guests, who remain unnamed in reports, ran upstairs to protect the Harrell's 10-year-old child by locking themselves in a closet and barricading the door. Barnhill ran from the house but returned shortly thereafter, disoriented.
Barnhill was finally taken into police custody after being subdued with a taser.
Mike Rozier, a friend of the Harrells, was "in total shock" after hearing the news of their deaths.
"Jim was in my office last Wednesday afternoon," said Rozier. "It's one of these things that if you hear it you don't believe it and you don't want to believe it."
State Rep. Karl Oliver, a friend of the Barnhill family, remembered Marlee with fondness.
"She was just a young lady who dedicated her life to helping others," Oliver told The Jackson Clarion Ledger. "She had a sweet personality, just a precious soul."
Michael Barnhill is being held without bond at the Carroll County Jail.
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