Sheriff: Barnes death still “open investigation”

Prosecutors were heard to say during the James Bartee trial that their office is satisfied that a shooting death more than two years was a case of self defense. But Oconee Sheriff Mike Crenshaw said his office still considers the death of Michael Shane Barnes an open investigation. On March 31, 2011, the body of the 51-year old Barnes was found on the ground near a side entrance to a home in the Friendship Community near Seneca. “We want to be able, without any shadow of any doubt whatsoever, to be able to tell this family that what happened in this particular case. Unfortunately, this is a case that we don’t know the victim’s side. The victim’s not here to speak. I think that’s why it is so important that we make sure that we dotted every ‘I’ and crossed every ‘T’ that we’ve uncovered every piece of evidence out there because we owe that responsibility to the victim,” Crenshaw said in an interview yesterday. The first-year Sheriff said his office has not ruled out its option of asking for a coroner’s inquest that would allow a panel of jurors to reach a verdict on the death. Barnes’ death was referred to in trial testimony last week when Bartee accuser Nick Blackwell acknowledged having been a suspect in the shooting death. Blackwell has never been charged in the case. He said during the trial last week he had yet to be told he no longer is considered a suspect.