Skip to main content

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel


Feb 4, 2023

A jury found Brian Cohee II guilty of first-degree murder Friday after about two days of deliberation.

Cohee, 21, was 19 when he murdered 69-year-old Warren Barnes, a homeless man who was sleeping near Crosby Avenue, in February 2021.

The verdict was read to a full courtroom after 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Cohee displayed no visible reaction upon hearing the verdict, which elicited an emotional response from a handful of attendees.

“Warren Barnes lost his life in the most violent of ways. His friends, family and community suffer his loss,” said Trish Mahre, assistant district attorney. “This outcome demonstrates the checks and balances that exist within the criminal justice system. Justice prevailed when the jury rendered guilty verdicts holding the defendant legally accountable for his horrendous crimes.”

Cohee pleaded not guilty by insanity. During his trial, which started Jan. 17, his attorneys argued Cohee’s diagnosed mental health disorders — including major depressive disorder, ADHD and autism — combined with environmental stressors caused him to become insane when he saw Barnes, and kill him.

In Colorado, in order to be found not legally sane at the time of a crime, a person must be found incapable of distinguishing right from wrong at the time a crime is committed because of a mental disease or defect.

The prosecution argued Cohee had admitted to planning to kill someone, specifically a homeless person, for months, and attempted to get rid of Barnes’s body, showing he understood consequences of his actions.

Two psychologists with the state of Colorado who examined Cohee for his insanity plea concluded he was not insane for the purposes of the plea at the time of the murder. Another psychologist, who performed a separate examination on behalf of the defense, said Cohee was experiencing a psychotic episode that was triggered by seeing Barnes, and abated soon after, rendering him insane.

Closing arguments finished Wednesday afternoon. The jury had been deliberating since then.

Cohee was also charged with tampering with a deceased human body and tampering with evidence. He was found guilty on both those counts.

Cohee was arrested March 1, 2021 after his parents found Barnes’s head and hands in his closet. He had attempted to get rid of the rest of Barnes’ body at the Blue Heron boat ramp, where he got his car stuck in the Colorado River.

In body camera footage and footage of interviews with investigators, Cohee appeared to freely admit to the murder, saying he wanted to know what it felt like.

Sentencing is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Monday.

Barnes’s death resonated in the Grand Junction community, particularly among those in the downtown area who knew him as a vociferous reader.

A memorial for Barnes was place in the breezeway between Out West Books and Monique’s Bridal on Main Street.

District Attorney
A photo of Brian Cohee, II wearing yellow inmate scubs