Murder suspect tied to case of missing Coffee County man - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Murder suspect tied to case of missing Coffee County man

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Maxwell Barnes (Source; New Brockton Police Department) Maxwell Barnes (Source; New Brockton Police Department)
Barbara Wood (Source: Stephens County Jail) Barbara Wood (Source: Stephens County Jail)
COFFEE CO., AL (WSFA) -
Investigators are turning up the heat in the search for a missing South Alabama man.

Maxwell Barnes hasn't been seen or heard from in weeks. He left Alabama with a murder suspect, a woman police say could have something to do with his disappearance.

Barnes' family and friends are holding out every hope that he's still alive but it's been a month since the 73-year-old New Brockton man went missing and with every passing day, their fears grow. 

"It's driving me crazy because I don't know what's going on with my dad. I'm very worried and heartbroken, hoping that he's not dead," said Steven Barnes of his missing father.

Barbara Wood, 44, and another unidentified person are considered persons of interest in his disappearance.

Wood is accused of killing 40-year-old Steven Faulk in Butler County in 2012.

Faulk and his fiancee went to confront Wood over a stolen purse the night he was murdered. Wood allegedly shot Faulk with a shotgun while he attempted to appear as a peacemaker in the conflict.

Wood was out on bond and was set to stand trial in June but did not show up. When she skipped out on the trial, a nationwide search was launched, ending more than 800 miles away in Oklahoma a month later.

Maxwell Barnes' family says he befriended Barbara Wood several months ago. They would often talk on the phone and he would visit her in Greenville.

Around the time her murder trial was set to start in Butler County, he left home in New Brockton and at some point, linked up with her. They traveled to Oklahoma to visit several of his relatives and suddenly, he vanished. 

Detective John Byers with the Duncan Police Department says Barbara Wood surfaced at a local convenience store and ended up leading police on a chase that covered 35 miles and reached speeds of more than 100 mph. 

According to Det. Byers, Wood eventually ran off the road and her car stalled out but when officers got out of their cars to arrest her, she restarted her car and put it in gear. One of the other officers rammed her car with his squad car to disable it and she was taken into custody.

She was arrested for DUI refusal, Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance, Giving False Information to Police, Attempting to Elude and No Insurance. Byers believes she was under the influence of narcotics at the time of the incident. 

At the time of her arrest, Wood was in Maxwell Barnes' car but he was nowhere to be found and he is still missing. Wood's car later turned up in a salvage yard.

"We believe that foul play is involved in the disappearance of Mr. Barnes. We have searched an area here in Duncan and we are planning another search soon and we have cell phone and other information that we are following up on. We have sent some items for testing to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for DNA analysis," Detective Byers told WSFA 12 News. 

Both the Coffee County Sheriff's Office and New Brockton Police Department have been assisting Oklahoma authorities in any way they can. 

"She used the gentleman, was using his assets and probably his money. I sure hope we find this gentleman and I hope he's alive when we do," said Coffee County Sheriff Dave Sutton. 

"My dad was lonely, and she took advantage of it," Barnes' son added. 

His relatives in Alabama and Oklahoma continue to wait and hope for a break in the case. 

"I'm think that something has happened to him. He has never in his life done anything such as this. If he's out there and he's alive, he will call," said Benny Kilpatrick, Barnes' longtime friend. "I want them to find him even if it's just his body. We want to know if he's alive or if something has happened to him or anything."

"We always consider the worst but we hope for the best. We just need to find him," added New Brockton Police Chief Dale Grimes, "If Mr. Barnes needs any kind of medical attention, we need to find him so we can get medical attention and also bring a closure to this."

A renowned search and recovery team called Texas Equusearch is helping search for Barnes. They've taken part in more than 1,350 searches across the world, including the search for Natalee Holloway in Aruba. Duncan authorities have worked with them before. Detective Byers says the team helped in the search for woman who had been missing for several years and they located her remains in a local lake. 

As for Barbara Wood, she's not talking. Duncan police say has been questioned about the disappearance but has not made any statements and requested a lawyer. 

Wood is still being held in jail in Stephens County, Oklahoma as the search for Maxwell Barnes continues. 

She faces charges there in connection with the high speed chase as well as her murder charge in Butler County. 

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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