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Prosecutor: DC man accused of decapitating sister's handyman motivated by ethnic hatred

Prosecutors argued that Lavaughn Barnes may have been motivated by ethnic hatred to murder a Guatemalan immigrant, who he is accused of decapitating and burying.

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

In a taped confession played in court Tuesday, a D.C. man told detectives it was a black cloud and intense rage that led him to murder his sister's handyman and bury him in his Brookland backyard in November.

But a prosecutor hinted at another motive for Lavaughn Barnes' rage: ethnic hatred.

Detectives went through Barnes' phone and found this entry for his alleged victim: “Stinking Spanish A**hole." 

Prosecutor Michael Liebman says that should give the judge a sense of why Barnes killed Abdulio Arias-Lopez, a 59-year-old Guatemalan immigrant, dismembered his body, and dragged the torso into a dense clump of bamboo in his backyard. The 32-year-old has been indicted on a charge of premeditated first-degree murder while armed.

Months after the homicide, Liebman said Barnes called 911 and pretended he just stumbled on the decomposing remains. That search was captured on camera exclusively by WUSA9.

Weeks later, Barnes’ story crumbled, and in an alleged confession played in court, he said he got mad at Arias-Lopez on Nov. 2, that he bought a Taser online, and when the handyman returned to the house a few days later, he shot him in the back of the neck with the stun gun.

Barnes said Arias-Lopez cried out, “Dear God, why are you doing this to me?” But instead of mercy, Barnes admitted he then kicked and beat the handyman in the head, dragged him to the basement, stabbed him once in each buttock, and then left him to die while he cleaned up the rest of the house.

"There was blood everywhere," Barnes told the detective in the taped confession. "In the living room, and the kitchen and downstairs. And in the basement." 

Barnes told the detective he bought an ax at the nearby hardware store, that he used it to dismember Arias-Lopez and then dumped the remains in a trashbag.

Barnes told the detective his sister had told him to go out back and cut down the bamboo, but when he saw the body, he couldn't move it again, so he called 911 with a made up story.

By the time police finally recovered the body, it was badly decomposed.

Barnes’ public defender, Anthony Matthews, says he has a possible mental health issue. Matthews said all the evidence being discussed is irrelevant to the question at hand -- should his client be held pending trial as a flight risk and danger to the community? 

The judge overruled the objections.

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