UPDATE: Couple dead in murder-suicide in Milton
James and Tonya Barnes parents of 5 daughters
MILTON A husband and wife who had been high school sweethearts and then married and raised a family died in a murder-suicide on Friday, police said.
Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department investigators believe James Barnes, 41, killed his wife, Tonya E. Barnes, 40, and then hanged himself.
The couple, who had been living apart recently, had lived on Greenfield Avenue in Milton with their children for many years. Tonya Barnes had been living in Schuylerville. The couple had been in an altercation late Thursday or early Friday in Milton, police said.
Tonya Barnes’ body was found outside a residence at 713 Arnold St. and James Barnes was found hanged from the boom of a truck in back of the house, according to Saratoga County Coroner John DeMartino.
An autopsy performed Friday evening at Albany Medical Center Hospital showed that Tonya Barnes died from multiple blunt force trauma to the head and body, DeMartino said. He said these wounds indicate she was beaten to death; he declined to identify the weapon.
James Barnes died from asphyxiation by hanging, he said. The autopsies were performed by Michael Sikirica, a forensic pathologist.
Police and emergency volunteers were called to 713 Arnold St. shortly after 8 a.m. Friday for a reported suicide. A family member called police.
The residence where Barnes’ body was found in the driveway belongs to his father, John A. Barnes, and is also headquarters for Imperial Septic Tank Service, the family business.
Milton Building Inspector Wayne Howe, who is also a volunteer firefighter, said he was on the fire truck that answered the call for assistance on Arnold Street Friday morning. Police told the volunteers they were not needed and could leave when they arrived on the street because there was nothing they could do to assist, he said.
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” Howe said later in the day. “We all feel so bad about this. We’ve worked with Jim and his family lots of times as a local business.”
Milton Highway Superintendent David Forbes attended high school with the couple. He said they had been together for nearly three decades. They had five daughters ages 13 to 21.
“Jim and I grew up together, and I’ve known both of them since I was probably 14,” Forbes said. “They were high school sweethearts and had probably been together for 27 years.”
Arnold Street is a dead end street off Greenfield Avenue and three generations of the Barnes family live within a block of each other. Some of the couple’s children arrived in tears at a home down the street from the crime scene and they were whisked into the house away from media waiting outside. A man identified as James Barnes’ stepbrother asked reporters and photographers to please leave the area.
Neighbors on Arnold Street said they were shocked by the events as they viewed eight state police and Sheriff’s Department vehicles along the road. Most expressed concern for the couple’s parents and children.
Tonya Barnes was a bus driver for the Ballston Spa School District in the past but was not an employee at the time of her death, according to school district spokesman Stuart Williams.