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Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office press release:
On May 5, 2021, a Humboldt County jury found Jason Ryan Barnes, age 48, of Eureka, guilty of one count of involuntary manslaughter for the homicide of Bernhard “Ben” Bertain and two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon. The jury also found true the special allegations that Mr. Barnes personally caused great bodily injury or death and personally used a deadly weapon.
Barnes had been charged with second degree murder. Prior to jury deliberations, Judge Timothy Canning acquitted Mr. Barnes of that charge and the lesser included charge of voluntary manslaughter. Thus, the jurors returned guilty verdicts on the most serious charges they were allowed to consider.
The case arose from an incident at the Burre Center Laundromat in Eureka on December 22, 2018. An employee of the laundromat intervened when she saw and heard the defendant screaming at a woman in the parking lot who was asking to be left alone. After the laundromat employee placed herself between Barnes and the woman, Mr. Bertain came over from his parked car to stand with the laundromat employee. At that point the defendant swung a skateboard at both the employee and Mr. Bertain; -the employee evaded the attack but the skateboard struck Mr. Bertain. The defendant then hit Mr. Bertain with the skateboard two more times.
Mr. Bertain declined medical attention immediately after the incident, but later told friends and family members that it felt like his ribs were broken when he was struck by the skateboard. Mr. Bertain called 911 in distress three days later but could not communicate when paramedics arrived. Mr. Bertain died during a flight to Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa. An autopsy by Napa County Forensic Pathologist Joseph Cohen determined that Mr. Bertain’s spleen had ruptured due to an expanding hematoma caused by blunt force trauma to the torso.
Eureka Police Department (EPD) Detective Corrie Watson led the investigation into Mr. Bertain’s death. Officers and evidence technicians from both EPD and the Arcata Police Department also contributed to the investigation.
Deputy District Attorney Roger C. Rees prosecuted the case with assistance from District Attorney Investigator Marvin Kirkpatrick, and victim advocates Marybeth Bian and Caitlyn LaHaie. Deputy Public Defender David Celli represented Mr. Barnes.
Mr. Barnes is scheduled for sentencing on June 14, 2021. He faces a maximum of 8 years in state prison. Mr. Barnes’s offenses qualify as violent crimes under California’s Three Strikes Law, and he will be required to serve at least 85% of any sentence imposed.