For kin, no new answers

Published 5:29 am Monday, February 25, 2008

By By Lydia Grimes – features reporter
The mystery of what happened to Annie Jean Barnes 40 years ago remains a mystery for her family, despite a book they hoped would uncover the truth.
Joyce Barnes Hicks and Brenda Barnes - daughter of the East Brewton woman who died after she was found beaten four decades ago - attended a booksigning Thursday for Joe Formichella's non-fiction work “Murder Creek.”
Some of Barnes' children chose not to attend or were unable to be there, the sisters said.
Annie Jean Barnes died Sept. 24, 1966, a week after she called family members for help. They picked her up at a hunting cabin just off U.S. 31. She had been badly beaten, according to news accounts in The Brewton Standard at the time.
Family members took Barnes to the hospital, but she died a week later.
Over the next week she was in the hospital, where it was thought her condition was improving, according to the news reports. She died on Saturday morning and after an autopsy was performed, it was determined that she died of “natural causes,” even though her body was covered with contusions and bruises, according to the news reports.
After the autopsy, the investigation went cold; no grand jury indictments were ever handed down in the case.
The cabin where Barnes was found beaten belonged to Dr. George Perry, but the sisters do not believe he had anything to do with her injuries.
Hicks' sister, Brenda Barnes, said she doesn't know if the mystery of their mother's death will ever be solved.
Formichella was joined at the book signing by former Brewton resident Suzanne Hudson, who wrote the forward for “Murder Creek.”
Hudson, who figures prominently in Formichella's book, wrote a novel somewhat inspired by the events of Barnes' death.
Formichella said his book is a direct result of the release of Hudson's “A Temple of Trees,” written four years ago.
Formichella said he interviewed a number of crime experts, law enforcement officers and citizens about the case.
The author said he didn't encounter much trouble when writing the book, “but there were people who did not want to talk,” he said.
At the signing, Formichella told the audience he believed the book was causing some controversy.
The booksigning Thursday was sponsored by the Brewton Public Library, Fairhope's Page and Palette bookstore and River City Publishing.
While Formichella moved to a side table to sign more books, Brewton native and singer Grayson Capps took the makeshift stage at the civic center for a free concert.
Capps said he admired Formichella for trying to find the truth behind Barnes' death.
Capps performed for more than an hour and even induced some of the audience members to sing along with him in one song. Capps will also perform March 8 at the Brewton Music Festival in downtown's Burnt Corn Crek Park.
Formichella's book can be seen or purchased at Brewton Public Library. Call 867-4626 for more information.