Crime

How did Amber Barnett die, and who was involved? It starts with dating app, investigators say

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The man suspected of killing Biloxi woman Amber Barnett met women through internet dating services and sexually assaulted one of them a month later, investigators say in court papers.

Wayne Adams reportedly met Barnett for sex at an unoccupied mobile home on County Farm Road near Gulfport on a Sunday morning. Barnett also used dating websites, and her boyfriend had dropped her off for a “date” at the trailer, according to an affidavit by Harrison County sheriff’s investigators.

Barnett’s mother filed a missing person report four days later, but it was too late to save her. Barnett died that morning on Feb. 18. She didn’t die at the rural mobile home just north of Landon Road, but in woods a few miles away off Cemetery Road.

How she died is unclear, but investigative documents say Adams left the woods where Barnett was found with bite marks on his arms.

But it took 6 months to find her body. A search dog and its handler found Barnett’s remains on Aug. 31, according to reports.

Her disappearance at first was considered a welfare concern. Court papers show Barnett’s mother told Biloxi police that her daughter was “prostituting” to make money for food and hotel rooms, and she wanted to know she was safe.

Barnett normally talked to her mother every day. Her worries grew as the days went by.

Court papers show Biloxi police had learned Barnett’s boyfriend had dropped her off at a mobile home just north of a Dollar Store on County Farm Road, but she didn’t call for him to pick her up. The boyfriend later told investigators that Barnett had been on a “date” with Adams in December 2017, but she’d had a disagreement with Adams over her services and he put her out of his vehicle at Love’s Travel Stop, a truck stop at I-10 and County Farm Road.

Police gave county investigators phone records that traced Barnett’s phone to 11126 County Farm, the address of the mobile home park. Phone analysis software in April would show her last text message was from Adams, who told her he “was naked in the back of the trailer, the door was unlocked and to come in,” the affidavit says.

Barnett reportedly had access to the unoccupied trailer because she had spoken with the park manager, who told her she left it unlocked so people could view it.

A Biloxi police officer met with Harrison County investigators on March 29, asking for help to interview tenants since the park was not in police jurisdiction. People in the park had learned Barnett was missing. Investigators say residents recalled seeing an SUV with two men in it. And Barnett’s boyfriend had shown up asking about her.

Sheriff’s investigators took over the investigation on April 13 because she was last seen in the county.

The sexual battery charge

Meanwhile, deputies arrested Adams during a traffic stop at Canal and Robinson roads on April 6. He was wanted on a sexual battery charge, and was driving a silver Honda Civic.

A woman who lives on Automall Parkway in D’Iberville had signed a complaint saying she had met a man named “Adam Way” on a dating app, and he had come to her apartment March 13 just to talk. Way began “massaging her feet and kissing her back,” and then gave her oral sex, but she began to feel pain and begged him to stop, but he refused until 2 1/2 hours later, when he left.

The woman didn’t have his phone number, but said he drove a silver or gray Honda SUV. Investigators identified Way as Adams.

Adams posted bail on a sexual battery charge, and was pulled over in a traffic stop on April 6 for not wearing a seat belt, papers show. Deputies reported they found Adams in a silver Honda with an expired tag and no proof of insurance, and said a plastic container containing an apparent drug fell from his pocket.

Adams reportedly told deputies there was a gun in the glove box, but said it was “legal.” Deputies later confirmed the gun had been reported stolen in Jackson County and the drug was meth. He would later be arrested on felony charges of possession of meth and a stolen firearm.

Back to the murder investigation

Barnett loved to wear jewelry and rings in particular. One was a gift from her boyfriend.

Two of her rings turned up at a pawn shop in Harvey, Louisiana, and one of the rings had a blood stain that appears to match Barnett’s DNA, the affidavit says. Investigators say they obtained video showing Adams’ current girlfriend in the pawn shop parking lot on April 17, the day the rings were pawned.

In late August, a week before Adams’ arrest on a first-degree murder charge, investigators questioned a woman who had been living with Adams on Feb. 18. She told them she had seen large scratches on Adams’ right arm, injuries he claimed were from falling off his truck, but she didn’t think that’s how he was injured, court papers show.

Investigators say the woman and Adams drove to his “Sugar Mama’s house,” referring to his current girlfriend. The woman reportedly told investigators Adams took black garbage bags and a black designer bag out of the trunk and told her to “burn these bloody clothes.”

Investigators also questioned Adams’ current girlfriend, who told a different story. She allegedly told them she saw a large injury on Adams’ arm, and he told her that he had killed a man and a woman in a drug deal gone bad at a trailer park.

Adams’ girlfriend claimed there was a bite mark on his arm as well, which he said came from the woman he killed.

Adams was following a missing person Facebook page for Barnett, and he showed his girlfriend a picture of Barnett, court papers say.

Investigators again questioned the woman with whom Adams had been living, and she reportedly told them her boyfriend had said Adams had paid him to take care of something on Feb. 18, but he wouldn’t tell her what.

The woman’s boyfriend was in jail when investigators questioned him, and here’s what they say he said:

Adams had paid the man to take him to a trailer park to drop him off, and he sat and waited. Adams and Barnett came out and Adams told him to drive off with them in the back seat. Barnett bit Adams twice on an arm, the man said, and one bite took off a large chunk of flesh. Adams then hit the woman over the head with an object, causing her to bleed, he said.

The man said he wanted to stop the car because the situation was getting out of hand, investigators said. The man said he pulled over and watched Adams walk Barnett into the woods, with his hand on her back, and Adams returned alone 15 minutes later and said someone was coming to pick her up.

Once they reached Adams’ home on Canal Junction Drive, near Canal Road, Adams allegedly told the driver he had killed Barnett and put her in the water.

Adams has been held at the county jail since Aug. 21 on bonds that total $86,000.

Investigators called for a search-and-rescue team the next day, Aug. 31, for the area the man described, and her body was found in woods on Cemetery Road north of George Ladner Road.

They arrested Adams on the first-degree murder charge with bond set at $1 million.

A preliminary hearing will be held in a couple of weeks, Harrison County prosecuting attorney Herman Cox said. Some of the material witnesses are being represented by the same public defenders, and rules of court require they each have their own attorney, he said.

Sheriff Troy Peterson has said additional charges are expected.

The material witnesses have not been arrested, Cox said, but that could happen if they refuse to testify.

Josh Vallum appears in George County Circuit Court with public defender David Futch on Tuesday, July 12, 2016 to plead guilty to a charge of first-degree murder by deliberate design in the beating and stabbing death of Mercedes Williamson, 17, of

Robin Fitzgerald, 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews
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