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Man choked, sexually assaulted woman as her children screamed, she testifies in St. John's court

Benji Barnes.
Benji Barnes. - SaltWire File Photo

'I asked him if he was going to kill me'

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The phone log shows numerous calls from Benji Barnes' cellphone to the landline of a woman he is accused of confining, choking and sexually assaulting in her own home last fall: 10:02 a.m., 10:31 a.m., 11:35 a.m., 12:15 p.m.

"I had my phone on quiet," the woman told a St. John's courtroom Tuesday. "It would ring, the answering machine would click in, then it would ring again, the answering machine would click in again. I didn't want to deal with Benji."

At 9:24 p.m., there was a record of a call in the opposite direction, coming from the woman's landline to Barnes' phone.

"That would have been the call where he told me to leave a message asking him to come over for a booty call," the woman said.

"Ma'am, did you call him up for a booty call?" prosecutor Shawn Patten later asked.

"Hell no," the woman replied.

Barnes, 36, has pleaded not guilty to breaking into the woman's Mount Pearl home and forcibly confining her, sexually assaulting her, choking her, and threatening her and her two children last Oct. 26. The woman is expected to be the last witness called to testify by the Crown, before it is the defence's turn to call evidence.

The woman said she and her two young children had gotten in her bed to watch Netflix that night. She had dozed off, she told the court, and was woken by a hand on her leg. She said she opened her eyes to find Barnes there.

"I was in shock that he was in my house," the woman testified, saying she yelled at Barnes, asking him what he was doing in her house. He asked the children to go to their own bedroom, she said, before he locked the master bedroom door with the kids on the other side.

"My kids could hear everything." — Complainant

The woman said she and her children were screaming, and Barnes grabbed her throat and led her to the bathroom, where he choked her as she attempted to fight him off. She was screaming and banging on the wall in an effort to alert her neighbours, she said.

"He said, 'You better shut up or those two kids out there, you want them to die tonight?" the woman testified, as Barnes, sitting in the courtroom, shook his head.

"My kids could hear everything," the woman said, pausing as she dabbed her eyes with a tissue. "They were screaming. They know even more than I remember about the assault."

The woman told the court Barnes dragged her back to the bedroom and she found herself, after a struggle, on the floor, half wedged under her bed.

"I was just fighting and trying to breathe and I remember he said, 'Don't fight it, just fall asleep and you'll wake up tomorrow,'" the woman testified. "I couldn't get him off, he was too strong for me, so I played asleep. I guess I wanted him to think I was passed out."

The woman said Barnes then lifted her shirt and put his mouth on her breast before partly removing her pants and unzipping his own, and attempting to have intercourse with her.

"At that point I asked him if he was going to kill me, and he said, 'Yeah, probably,’" the woman testified.

She said Barnes then forced her to come with him to her basement, where he handed her the house phone and directed her to call his cellphone and leave him a voicemail asking him to come over for a "booty call." He then told her to do a line of cocaine with him, she testified.

"I was never so scared in my life," the woman said. "I honestly thought I could die. I wanted to leave, so I would have said or done anything to get out of that situation.

"I never, ever saw him like this before. I never would have thought Benji Barnes was capable of this."

"I never, ever saw him like this before. I never would have thought Benji Barnes was capable of this." — Complainant

Barnes left through the back door, she testified, telling her that he was going to get more cocaine and would return. She noticed a broken basement window, she said, and figured that's how Barnes had gotten in.

The phone log showed seven calls from Barnes' cellphone to the woman's landline beginning at 9:35 p.m. At that point, she said, she was on the phone with her neighbour, who called the RNC and came to take the children for the night.

Police officers accompanied the woman to hospital, where she underwent a sexual assault exam and was noted to have red marks on her neck. Swabs of blood taken from the front and back of the woman's shirt, as well as a swab taken from her nipple, matched Barnes' DNA profile. Vaginal swabs and swabs taken from the woman's neck were found to contain male DNA, but not enough to determine a specific profile.

Along with the call log, Patten presented a log of Facebook Messenger messages obtained by police from a phone seized from Barnes when he was arrested. He asked the woman why, in some cases, it appeared she had been exchanging messages with a second account under her name.

She said Barnes had hacked into one of the accounts and was using it to contact her.

"I"m coming up to talk tonight," read one message the woman alleged came from Barnes earlier in the day on Oct. 26.

"No you're not. I'm getting an order so you can't call me off the hook or come near me or my kids. Now get off my Facebook and leave me alone, Benji!" read the reply, which the woman said came from her.

"I don't want to get back together 'cause you cheated on me, I just want to talk," a return message said. "You answer them questions and you will never hear from me again."

Shortly before 11:30 p.m., the woman had another incoming Facebook message: "Are you serious, you ask me up for a booty call and you call the cops?"

Barnes' case will be called again on Monday, when the woman will be cross-examined by defence lawyer Steve Orr.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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