Boyfriend accused of stabbing Winton mother of six to death

WINTON -- A domestic disturbance late Tuesday night ended with the stabbing death of a mother of six -- the third homicide in the county in less than two weeks, Merced County Sheriff's investigators said Wednesday.

The suspect, 28-year-old James Barrett, is in custody at Merced County Jail facing murder charges.

Sheriff's investigators responded to a home in the 6800 block of Arlene Drive after receiving 911 call from Barrett around 11:30 p.m.

Barrett allegedly told a dispatcher that he needed help because he had stabbed his girlfriend, 33-year-old Lynn Harper, said Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.

Investigators found Harper's body with multiple stab wounds. Barrett was booked on charges of murder with special circumstances. He is being held without bail.

Sheriff Mark Pazin said Barrett has had previous interactions with law enforcement and "has been in custody off and on," although he did not specify what those interactions were.

"We do know there was a history of domestic violence," Pazin said.

MacKenzie said three of Harper's six children were asleep inside the home when the stabbing occurred. Her other children were not home. All of the children are in the care of Merced County Child Protective Services.

Inside the home were 4- and 7-year-old girls and a 9-year-old boy, said deputy Ed Katen.

Barrett is believed to be the biological father of some of the children, MacKenzie said.

Harper's is the ninth death being investigated as a homicide in Merced County this year.

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Although the street where the stabbing occurred appears to be a quaint, quiet neighborhood on the surface, Harper's death isn't the first major crime to occur there in recent months.

In March, the Merced County Multi-Agency Narcotics Task Force, along with several other agencies, raided a methamphetamine lab at a home containing about 25 pounds of crystal methamphetamine with a street value of more than $400,000.

During that operation, investigators arrested five people at the 6814 Arlene Drive home -- the same block where Tuesday's homicide occurred.

Fatia Reyna, a 30-year-old resident who has lived on Arlene Drive for 15 years, said she is definitely concerned about the homicide and area's crime. Reyna said she did not know the victim or the suspect.

"It's shocking," Reyna said. "It think through the years (the neighborhood) has has gotten more loud. There's different types of people moving in and out."

Harper's death caps off a busy week for the sheriff's department's Major Crimes Unit, Pazin said, with last weekend's shooting of 16-year-old boy in Los Banos and knife-wielding man at the Merced County Courthouse who was fatally shot by law enforcement on Monday. "It's been a wicked week here," Pazin said.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or Online editor Brandon Bowers contributed to this report.

Deaths ruled as homicide (by city) in Merced County this year:

Lynn Harper, 33, Winton

Peter Fregoso, 16, Los Banos

Maria Branco, 73, Atwater

Jerry Her, 20, Merced

Vang Thao, 22, Merced

Liadan Eva Wright, 3, Dos Palos

Jesse Thanoi, 19, Dos Palos

Tony Noia, 34, Atwater

Rudolfo “Rudy” Hernandez, 27, Merced

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