Body of Kent State student in Leebrick Hall for six days


Photo by Amber Rowe.

Anna Staver

James Barnes known as ‘very considerate, very polite.’

The body of a Kent State graduate student found in Leebrick Hall Sunday had been there for six days.

Tom Decker, Portage County Coroner’s lead investigator, was called to Leebrick after the body of James Barnes, 26, was discovered by Kent State police officers at approximately 4:45 p.m. He said an exact time of death is not yet known.

“What we can tell you is, the autopsy indicated that timeline of death is consistent with the last time he was seen, which was Oct. 10,” Decker said.

Decker said at this time the investigation has concluded that foul play was not a factor in Barnes’ death. But the story went viral last night amid speculation that Barnes was murdered.

Leebrick became a trending topic on Twitter in the Cleveland area, and the story on has received more than 44,000 hits. had to put its comments on approval due to an influx of insensitive and inappropriate posts.

Decker said Barnes’ family confirmed his identity Monday, and a preliminary autopsy was completed at the Summit County Medical Office.

“The results of that autopsy did not reveal the cause of death,” Decker said. “Therefore, the cause of death is pending the results of microscopic testing and toxicology reports.”

Decker said toxicology reports would show if Barnes had any drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of death, and microscopic testing looks at tissue samples to determine if a particular organ was diseased.

He said for example, a heart may appear normal during an autopsy, but when tissue samples are analyzed, you can clearly see that the person had a heart attack. Decker said results could take up to 12 weeks.


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The 325 dorm rooms in Leebrick Hall are all single rooms, which means students who live there do not have roommates. According to the university website, the residence hall holds a mix of freshmen and upperclassmen.

University spokeswoman Emily Vincent said Kent State Police discovered Barnes during a welfare check, which is “when a family member calls and says they haven’t heard from the student in a while,” Vincent said.

Barnes’ Facebook page was covered with messages on Sunday asking for him to please call. The messages started at 3:47 p.m., about an hour before his body was discovered.

Kent State University Police said they handle calls from concerned friends or family members on a case-by-case basis. There is no specific time limit that a person must be out of contact before a concern can be reported.

The officers closed the fourth floor of Leebrick after they discovered Barnes’ body.

Julian Johnson, freshman exploratory major, lives on the fourth floor of Leebrick Hall a few doors down from Barnes. He said he was told by Residence Services that he would be called on his cell phone when he could come back. Johnson said he returned to his room around 1 a.m.

Shawn George, a freshman aeronautics major, lives on the 12th floor of Leebrick. He said students started returning to the fourth floor around midnight, but some chose to go home.

On Sunday, the Stater spoke with several students who said they noticed a strange odor on the fourth floor of the residence hall the last few days before Barnes’ body was found.

Johnson said he noticed an unusual smell last Saturday and thought it might be something rotting in his room. Johnson said the smell grew worse throughout the week, and he tried to cover it up with air freshener.

Decker, the Portage County investigator, said he smelled an odor consistent with decomposition when he arrived Sunday.

“You’re going to get a stench of some sort immediately when someone dies,” Decker said. “If you’re not used to something like that you’re going to pick up on that right away.”

But Decker said it might not be a smell students would recognize.

Emma Patterson, a sophomore fashion merchandising major, lives on the 12th floor of Leebrick. She said her friend noticed the smell on the fourth floor, but didn’t think it was anything.

“It was really disconcerting, it just went on for so long and there were complaints about it, but they did nothing about it,” Patterson said.

“Being in a singles dorm, you don’t know as many people.”

Contact Anna Staver at [email protected].

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