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17-Year-Old Da’Mari Barnes Sentenced to 9 Years for Bonfire Killing

ⓒ Flagler County Sheriff's Office

17-year-old Da’Mari Barnes was sentenced to serve nine years in prison and 15 years probation for the shooting death of a 19-year-old in February 2022. Barnes, then 15, was charged with having brought a gun to a bonfire in the woods near Matanzas High School in Palm Coast and shot James ‘JuJu’ Bennett to death.

The shooting death of Bennett occurred days after Barnes’ cousin, Noah Smith, was shot to death in Bunnell. A fight reportedly started at the bonfire when a girl accidentally bumped into Barnes, and Barnes got into a physical altercation.

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Bennett is said to have gotten involved verbally, and he soon was in a fight with Barnes. The fight ended when Barnes drew his firearm from his sweatshirt pocket and shot Bennett in the chest. He died shortly thereafter.

Barnes was charged with manslaughter as an adult for the killing. In October 2023 he pleaded guilty. His sentencing could’ve been up to 30 years, putting him behind bars until his late 40’s.

Circuit Judge Terence Perkins would’ve been within his rights to charge Bennett as a juvenile, youthful offender, or adult. He sentenced Bennett as an adult, to nine years in prison followed by 15 years probation.

Written By

Chris Gollon is a Flagler County resident since 2004, as well as a staple of the local independent music scene and avid observer of Central Florida politics, arts, and recreation.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. TR

    February 26, 2024 at 4:28 pm

    IMO to light a sentence should have gotten at least 25 to 30 without parole.

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