UPDATE: Police return to Leebrick, look for clues in student death


Kent State Police and investigators made a routine visit to Leebrick Hall Tuesday morning to collect more clues in the death of James Barnes. Photo by Megan Shaw.

Anna Staver

KentWired Video

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Betsy Joseph, director of Residence Services, explains why missing students sometimes fly under the radar.


Kent State Police and investigators returned to the fourth floor of Leebrick Hall Tuesday where the body of James Barnes, a Kent state graduate student, was discovered Sunday afternoon.

University spokeswoman Emily Vincent said it’s a routine visit that’s made by police after someone unexpectedly dies.

“They are going through his belongings to see if there is anything that will help in the investigation as to cause of death,” Vincent said. “It was a scheduled thing with the police. It’s part of the process.”

She said again that there is no evidence to suspect that foul play was involved in Barnes’ death.

Vincent said once the police complete their search, the university will begin the process of clearing out Barnes’ room.

Body of Kent State student in Leebrick Hall for six days

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

View Body found in a larger map

The body of a 26-year-old Kent State student was found Sunday evening on the fourth floor of Leebrick Hall.

University spokeswoman Emily Vincent said Kent State Police discovered the body of a male student during a welfare check at approximately 4:45 p.m.

“It’s when a family member calls and says they haven’t heard from the student in a while,” Vincent said. “At this point in the investigation, foul play is not suspected.”

As the Stater went to press, residents of the fourth floor were not permitted to return to their rooms.

Vincent said, “Residence Services have already been in touch with all the residents and have made arrangements.”

Julian Johnson, freshman exploratory major, lives on the fourth floor of Leebrick Hall. Johnson said Residence Services told him that someone would call him on his cellphone when he could return to his room.

Tom Decker, Portage County Coroner’s chief investigator, said officials have a tentative ID, but are withholding his name until after his family has been notified. Decker said the body is that of a black male, and an autopsy would be performed Monday at the Summit County Medical Office to determine the cause of death.

“We don’t have an actual time of death, but it’s been a couple of days minimum,” Decker said.

Decker said “an initial autopsy has been completed, but the cause of death is still under investigation.”

Decker said a final determination could take weeks, but information on the preliminary findings may be available later Monday.

Johnson said he noticed an unusual smell last Saturday and thought it might be something rotting in his room. The rooms in Leebrick hall are singles, and students who live there do not have roommates. Johnson said the smell grew worse throughout the week, and he tried to cover it up with Febreeze.

A Stater reporter described a rotting smell when he stepped off the elevator on the fourth floor Sunday evening.

“It smelled like something dead,” he said. “It was overpowering.”

Check back for more updates.

Contact Anna Staver at [email protected]. Seth Cohen contributed to this story.

Editor’s note:

Details on the cause of death remain unknown at this time. Due to a large number of insensitive and inappropriate comments, the editors of KentWired are moderating the comment feature. Because of this, comments may not appear instantly.