Mt. Rainier Suspect Drowned: Autopsy

Plus, troubling details about suspected gunman Benjamin Colton Barnes
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2012 4:17 AM CST
Mt. Rainier Suspect Drowned: Autopsy
A reader board with a message in memory of Mount Rainer National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson is seen at a roadside motel Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012, in Elbe, Wash.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Iraq war veteran suspected of killing a Mount Rainier ranger died from drowning, with hypothermia contributing to his death, his autopsy concludes. Benjamin Colton Barnes was found "face down, totally in the water" of a creek, wearing just jeans, a T-shirt, and one shoe, according to a sheriff's spokesperson. He had a handgun and weapon magazines with him, and a rifle was found nearby, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, a picture of the troubled 24-year-old is emerging. In a court filing earlier this year, the mother of his infant daughter said she feared Barnes might use his weapons against her or her family, CNN reports. She added that he may have been suffering from PTSD.

Barnes was a struggling high school student and a loner before enlisting in the Army in 2007. He was discharged for misconduct in November 2009, after being arrested for a DUI and a weapons charge; it was after his discharge that he became obsessed with weapons, the Seattle Times notes. Last summer, his relationship with the mother of his daughter collapsed; she said he had threatened her with a knife and also threatened suicide. More recently, he lost a close friend and fellow soldier to suicide, lost his apartment and job, and began sleeping in his car in parking lots. He could only see his daughter with court-ordered supervision. "He is a loose cannon," says a woman who rejected Barnes romantically, whom he visited before Anderson's shooting Sunday. "If he doesn't get his way or something makes him upset, he goes all the way out of control." (Read more Mt. Rainier stories.)

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