A 20-year-old Concord man who was initially charged in connection with the murder of a young woman in her Concord home in 2011 was ordered released from jail today after reaching a plea deal with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.
Johnathan Harriel pleaded not guilty in a Martinez courtroom Monday to residential burglary as part of the plea agreement and was sentenced to six years in jail for his role in the killing of 21-year-old Benicia native Shelby Barnes. However, with conduct credits and time served, Harriel was set to be released, according to Deputy District Attorney Jason Peck.
Peck said in an email that Harriel’s sentence stems from the problems prosecutors had proving his involvement beyond a reasonable doubt in Barnes’ killing.
“The other defendants made admissions including describing the role of Harriel, however those statements are not admissible in trial against Harriel,” the prosecutor said in an email. “Likewise, there is forensic evidence linking the other defendants to the crime while Harriel’s DNA and fingerprints were not found on any duct tape or weapons.”
The other two defendants, 25-year-old Donald Waldecker of Richmond and 23-year-old Randi Dees of El Sobrante, have already been convicted in connection with Barnes’ killing.
Waldecker pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is serving a 25-year jail sentence while Dees pleaded no contest earlier this year to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Barnes’ murder devastated her friends and family and shocked the small town of Benicia, where she spent most of her life.
In 2011, Barnes moved into a home on Glenside Court in Concord that had been owned by her father but was going into foreclosure.
In October 2011, she allowed Waldecker and Dees, who were a couple at the time, to stay in the house with her.
According to prosecutors, Waldecker came up with a plan to steal the deed to the Concord home and carried out the plan on Oct. 24, 2011, tied her up with the help of Dees and Harriel, bludgeoned her and slit her throat.
The defendants were arrested days after the killing and Harriel, then 17, was tried as an adult.