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Murder charges filed after chilling discovery of headless and handless handyman in D.C. yard with ‘overgrowth of bamboo’

A K-9 officer walks past the D.C. home where a handyman was found decapitated.

A K-9 officer walks past the D.C. home where a handyman was found decapitated. (WUSA9 screengrab)

Law enforcement in the nation’s capital say that a 32-year-old Washington, D.C. resident has been identified as a murder suspect after a grisly discovery was made in his sister’s yard.

Lavaughn Barnes, a 32-year-old, was allegedly living in his sister’s basement in a Brookland rowhome in D.C.’s Northeast quadrant at the time Abdulio Arias-Lopez was killed and mutilated. While the Metropolitan Police Department said that the victim’s remains were found on Feb. 3, investigators believe—based on an alleged confession by the suspect, who is described as mentally ill—that Arias-Lopez was killed in November 2022.

“At approximately 8:31 am, Fifth District officers responded to the listed location for the report of human remains located in the yard of a residence. Upon arrival, officers located the remains. The remains were confirmed to be human by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The remains were recovered and transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for further examination,” police said. “The detectives’ investigation determined that the death of the victim was the result of a homicide.”

Barnes turned himself in and was arrested Wednesday, cops said. He now faces a charge of first-degree murder while armed.

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“The structure is described as a yellow rowhome. The main entrance door to the residence is brown. To the left of entrance door are the numerals ‘1336’ and are black in color. The yard is accessed along a grass path beside the home,” said MPD Det. Brian Bador, reportedly describing the scene in an application for a search warrant. The detective sought judicial permission to search the yard for evidence of the victim’s remains and any other evidence in the case, like blood, possible DNA evidence, or weapons.

A D.C. judge found probable cause to authorities the search the premises. Authorities said that the human remains found in “black drawstring trash bags with red pulls.”

The affidavit accompanying the application for the warrant said that the remains were discovered in the yard when Witness-1 was “clearing the field from the overgrowth of bamboo.”

“A homicide detective observed the partially decomposed and decapitated human body. The body was inside of a black plastic trash bag,” the affidavit said, adding that it appeared the victim was shot one time in the abdomen.

WUSA 9 reported that the victim was found both headless and handless:

FOX 5 DC reported that the handyman victim was going to help with painting the kitchen at the home on Nov. 4, 2022 when he was attacked and killed seemingly at random:

Barnes told police he became angry for unknown reasons, and tased Arias-Lopez in the back of the head, before stabbing him, then cutting off his head and arms, and putting the body in a trash bag in the backyard.

The suspect allegedly murdered the handyman and then went to an Ace Hardware store to purchase the ax used to cut up the victim’s remains.

A magistrate judge reportedly remarked that the slaying appeared “incredibly random” and ordered Barnes’ continued detainment.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.