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DC man accused of killing sister's handyman indicted on murder charge, confession tape played in court

In a chilling confession played in court, Lavaughn Barnes said he couldn't explain why he murdered his sister's handyman and dumped his headless body in the backyard

WASHINGTON — Note: Details in this story are graphic and may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.

A D.C. judge heard a chilling confession Friday from a 32-year-old man charged with murdering a handyman, dismembering the body and burying it in the backyard, where he left it for three months before calling 911 to turn himself in. 

Lavaughn Barnes was indicted on a charge of premeditated first-degree murder while armed in the the death of Abdulio Arias-Lopez. According to a taped confession that was played in court, Barnes got mad at Arias-Lopez on Nov. 2, when he was painting Barnes' sister's house --- where Barnes lived in the basement. That night, Barnes then ordered a taser online.

When Arias-Lopez came back a few days later, Barnes confessed to a detective that he shot the handyman in the back of the head with the stun gun, dropping him to the floor.  Arias-Lopez allegedly pleaded with Barnes, asking why he was doing this.

Barnes told detectives he punched and kicked the handyman, dragged his body to the basement, stabbed him twice in the buttocks and took him outside, still alive and moaning in pain. He then told the detective that he went to a hardware store, bought an ax and used it to decapitate and dismember Arias-Lopez, before putting the body parts in a trash bag. 

Three months later, on Feb. 3, Barnes called 911 and claimed he had just found human remains in his backyard. Bodycam video shown in court shows a responding officer talking to Barnes on the steps outside the home in the 1300 block of Kearny Street Northeast telling the officer that he had been cutting down bamboo when he found the remains. 

Investigators say the body was located under black, unopened trash bags in the rear of the yard. Judging by the growth of the bamboo around the body, personnel with the Urban Forestry Unit estimated it had been in that location for two to three months, the documents say. 

Barnes' sister showed investigators text messages with the handyman from Nov. 4, 2022 and said that was the last time she had heard from him, documents say.

In the audio of his confession two weeks after he called 911, Barnes told detectives he didn't know why he was so angry at Arias-Lopez. 

"It was like a dark cloud that was over my head," he said in the confession tape. "I'm sorry. I repented to God. You can go ahead and execute me." 

D.C. has abolished the death penalty, however. 

Barnes' sister has previously told police her brother is “mentally challenged” and “sometimes slow to respond when questioned.”  

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