While the state medical examiner's office continues to try to identify skeletal remains found in the burned-out hull of a 37-foot yacht in St. Marys Monday, investigators are releasing more details in what they suspect to be a double homicide and arson.
Bone fragments found in charred debris aboard the Premium Time in North River are believed to be those of Karen Shaye Barnes, 53, of Brunswick and Larry Owen Ford, 71, a friend who lived on a boat at the Jekyll Island Marina where Barnes' boat, Premium Time, was docked until three weeks ago.
The suspect in the homicide and arson is the former husband of Barnes, David Jerome Trauger. Trauger was killed Wednesday in Kingsland after he refused to surrender to police and investigators at Willow Way Apartments in Kingsland. Police say they fired at Trauger when he aimed a firearm at them.
Friday, the St. Marys Police Department, the lead agency investigating the homicides, released this series of events:
When 911 dispatchers were called at 3:20 a.m. Monday, nobody was on the line, but dispatchers heard sounds of what appeared to be an altercation.
Authorities knew where to go because the phone number of the incoming call was familiar to St. Marys police, who had responded to two incidents in July when Barnes called authorities from the phone.
Police were dispatched to St. Marys Boat Services on the North River. When they arrived, the yacht was engulfed in flames.
Officers learned Barnes' friend, Larry Ford, might be with her. They found Ford's dingy tied up to his boat near the marina but were unable to locate him.
While officers were looking for Barnes and Ford, a lookout was issued for Trauger and his vehicle because of recent domestic complaints against him.
A Kingsland Police Department officer found Trauger's red Ford Sports-Trak in the parking lot of a truck stop near Exit 1 from Interstate 95 shortly after the lookout was broadcast. The vehicle was impounded while officers continued to determine the whereabouts of Trauger.
Investigators searched by air and water to look for anyone who may have fled the burning boat and subsequently drowned. During the searches conducted by the Coast Guard, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Camden Search and Rescue, investigators talked to boaters anchored overnight in the area.
Some boaters said they saw a single boat in the area of the downtown St. Marys boat ramp headed to the North River boat yard where the fire occurred Monday. Witnesses also reported seeing the same boat returning to the St. Marys River several hours later.
Later Monday, investigators got a search warrant for Trauger's vehicle to see if there were any clues to his whereabouts. Investigators found documents consistent with someone putting their personal affairs in order prior to death, such as re-naming a beneficiary, paying bills for several months and instructions to certain persons.
The search also revealed Trauger had leased an apartment in Kingsland on Aug. 1, where he was later confronted by officers before he was shot and killed.
Investigators found Trauger had purchased a boat on Aug. 4 that they believe he used to travel from the boat ramp on the St. Marys River near the truck stop where his vehicle was discovered.
The boat was found by police in a saltwater marsh with the drain plug pulled and loaded with cinder blocks in an apparent attempt to sink it.
Police found some .22 caliber bullets in a bag in the boat, which were consistent with shells removed from Trauger's vehicle earlier Monday.
The information led investigators to focus attention near the Exit 1 area near I-95 in their search. Police received two separate reports Trauger had been seen in the area.
Investigators learned Wednesday that Trauger knew the yacht had many fire safety features that would have made it difficult to burn without knowledge of how to disable them. The information led investigators to believe Trauger was the prime suspect.