Local News

Trail Of Evidence Brings Suspect In Clayton Woman's Death Back To N.C.

Posted May 11, 2006

— Court records show a Clayton woman feared for her life and tried to get help right up until her death.

Rhonda Barnes called police two days before she died and told officers she was worried that her ex-boyfriend, Dennis Shaw, might hurt her. Now, he's back in Johnston County, charged in connection with her death.

Nearly a week after his arrest, Shaw was brought from Washington D.C. to Smithfield on Wednesday to face charges that e killed Barnes at her Clayton home.

"He was really possessive, according to friends and family, and that is our motive at this time," said Clayton Police Lt. Jon Gerrell.

Shaw was already suspected of spray-painting obscene language on Barnes' home, vandalizing her car and suspected of harassment over the last year.

Now, court documents show just how far that possessive streak appears to reach. The affidavit police submitted when they searched Shaw's D.C. apartment said Barnes told Clayton police on April 17 -- two days before her death -- that she thought Shaw would do something to her.

There was a "history of domestic violence" between the two. After her death, police "located several letters" from Shaw to Barnes that threatened violence.

The search warrant also shed more light onto the murder scene. Barnes died of a severe blow to the head, but her body was burned beyond recognition from some kind of sulfuric acid. There was also "evidence of a struggle."

When detectives noticed burns on Shaw's face and arms when they interviewed him in D.C., they were suspicious.

Barnes' neighbors said they didn't know the woman was being tormented because she kept to herself.

"I'm definitely the neighborhood watch, and I hope everyone else is at this point," said neighbor Shanell Holloway.

The court papers show Barnes filed for a restraining order in 1998 against Shaw, but Clayton police said that despite the fear and the harassment, she didn't file for one in Clayton.

"I kind of believe ... she had feelings for him, which is understandable with children," Gerrell said. "Maybe she didn't think he could do this to her."

Clayton police said they did not have enough evidence to charge Shaw with the vandalism before Barnes' death. However, his computer was seized to see if some of the intimidating fliers can be traced to him.

Shaw told authorities he burned himself with drain cleaner in his shower. Police said his stories are inconsistent and he was not at work the day of the Barnes' death.

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