Man on trial in Mahoning County disappears after cigarette break

Local News

U.S. Marshals on Thursday are searching for Rufus Barnett, who was found guilty of felony drug charges

Rufus Barnett, wanted after leaving courtroom in Youngstown Thursday.

Photo from Barnett’s arrest in January of 2019.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A man on trial this week on first-degree felony drug charges in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court while free on bond went outside for a cigarette Wednesday while jurors were deliberating his fate and never came back.

Rufus Barnett, 30, was found guilty of a first-degree felony count of possession of a fentanyl-related compound and tampering with evidence following a trial before Judge Anthony D’Apolito. He was not present when the verdict was read.

U.S. Marshals on Thursday are searching for Barnett.

Jurors did find Barnett not guilty of drug trafficking. The possession charge included a major drug offender specification because Boardman police found 870 grams of fentanyl in sludge from a toilet at a Market Street home police searched in January 2019 while serving a search warrant.

Police said Barnett tried to flush the drugs down the toilet of an upstairs bathroom while police were downstairs searching before they heard someone above them moving and decided to go upstairs.

Jurors began deliberating in the case about 4:15 p.m. Wednesday and rendered their verdicts about 7 p.m.

At some point after 5 p.m., Barnett went outside to have a cigarette but never came back.

Assistant Prosecutor Joe Maxin, who assisted lead prosecutor Jennifer Paris, said under state law, anyone found with over 100 grams of fentanyl can be charged with a first-degree felony.

Maxin said the toilet sludge was saved and tested by the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The weight of the sludge and fentanyl came to 870 grams, Maxin said. He said the entire mixture is determined a “fentanyl-related compound” because it is not uncommon for dealers to mix their drugs with anything, including urine.

“He could’ve put that in syringes,” Maxin said.

Township police served search warrants at the Market Street house and Barnett’s home in the 7500 block of Glenwood Avenue after receiving a tip that drugs were being sold from the Market Street home.

At the Glenwood Avenue home, police found a $20 bill whose serial number matched a bill that was used to make an undercover drug buy during the investigation.

All told, police found over $3,000 in Barnett’s home, Maxin said.

A stolen 9mm handgun from West Virginia was also found during the investigation, but no charges were filed for the gun.

A man who lived in the Market Street home was also charged, but he cooperated with prosecutors.

More stories from WKBN.com:

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending on WKBN.com