A man booked on suspicion of homicide while in custody at the county jail pleaded not guilty to charges Wednesday afternoon during an arraignment hearing.
Jason Barnes, 49, has been charged with one count of first-degree murder with a special allegation of using a deadly weapon and one count of assault in connection with the altercation that led to the death of Bernhard “Ben” Bertain in December 2018.
“The court will appoint the Public Defender’s Office,” said visiting judge Marjorie Laird Carter.
Deputy Public Defender Brie Bennett accepted the appointment for the office and entered not guilty pleas and denied the special allegation against Barnes.
Carter ordered Barnes be held without bail after a request from the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees. His initial bail had been set at $1 million following his arrest.
The assault charge is related to the alleged assault of Shaelawn Mercedes Jansen-Morrow in whose defense others, including Bertain, intervened.
According to a news release from the Eureka Police Department, Bertain’s family notified police following his death that he stepped into a physical altercation between Barnes and Jansen-Morrow outside of a business in the Burre Center in Eureka on Dec. 22. That sparked an investigation by the Eureka Police Department and eventually led to Barnes’ arrest on suspicion of homicide.
Police report Bertain, a Southern Humboldt resident, was parked outside a business at the Burre Center. He got out and stood next to an employee from a store in the Burre Center who had placed herself between Barnes and the woman he was allegedly assaulting. At one point, Barnes reportedly swung a skateboard at Bertain and struck him in the chest.
Barnes then fled the scene on foot while Bertain got back into his pickup truck and went about his business.
On Christmas Day, Bertain called 911 to report difficulty breathing and was taken to Mad River Community Hosptial initially before being airlifted to Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa. Bertain later died as a result of the injury he sustained. An autopsy determined he had died as a result of homicide.
Barnes, who has nearly a dozen criminal cases, was in jail following his last arrest in June and he was scheduled for a hearing on violating his parole on July 22. Instead, his misdemeanor charges is delayed by the homicide case and a preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for July 29.
Barnes appeared in court in custody and he was handcuffed to another prisoner during the short hearing. Unlike his booking photo, Barnes now has his hair cut short and he is clean-shaven.
Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.