Decapitated body found in Northeast DC backyard, man turns himself in

A man has been charged with murder after a decapitated, dismembered and mummified corpse was found in a Northeast D.C. backyard, police said.

LaVaughn Barnes, 32, was arrested Wednesday and charged with first-degree murder while armed, according to police, who said Barnes confessed to the killing when he turned himself in Wednesday.

The remains were found on Feb. 3 in the backyard of Barnes’ home, on Kearney Street near 13th Street in Northeast D.C. Barnes and his sister, who also lives at the house, called police after Barnes found the body while cleaning out the backyard, according to court documents.

Police searched the house and said they found numerous blood stains in the basement, where Barnes lived. Officers also recovered a machete, a large knife with a sheath, four folding knives, brass knuckles, a Taser, cleaning agents and paint, according to court documents.

Barnes turned himself in Wednesday, telling police “I did it,” and that the remains found in his backyard were those of a handyman who had done work at his house on multiple occasions. Court documents state that Barnes went on to tell police that he was in the kitchen with the handyman on Nov. 4 when a black cloud of rage came over him and he fired a Taser at the man’s head.

The handyman hit the floor, and a huge cut opened on his head, Barnes told police. According to court documents, the man then asked, “Why would you do this to me?”

Barnes said he was not in his right mind, and he proceeded to punch and kick the handyman, after which, court documents state, Barnes dragged his body to the basement.

Once Barnes was downstairs, he told police he stabbed the handyman twice in the buttocks, according to court filings, which also state Barnes then bought an ax from Ace Hardware and cut off the handyman’s head and arms. Barnes told police he threw those body parts in the trash, which the city unknowingly picked up.

Barnes then covered the rest of the body with trash bags and put it in his backyard, court documents state, until he reported it to police almost three months later on Feb. 3.

According to the court documents, Barnes told police he met with the handyman two days before the killing and got so angry that he bought the Taser and decided he wanted to kill the handyman.

Barnes told police he wanted to be executed and he expressed suicidal thoughts to a crisis intervention officer. Barnes’ sister told police that Barnes used to cut himself.

Police said autopsy results are still pending, as are results from DNA testing of the human remains and blood evidence collected in the basement of the home.

Barnes was ordered held without bond Thursday and will next be in court March 29.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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