4 young men charged in beating of teacher

Cockeysville man suffered broken jaw in late-night assault

June 27, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County police have arrested four young men in last week's beating of a popular Hereford Middle School teacher, who was left unconscious outside his Cockeysville apartment.

Agri-science teacher Jason Barnett, 25, suffered a fractured jaw and facial bones in the June 18 attack and has been at Maryland Shock Trauma Center since then. He was listed in good condition yesterday after undergoing surgery.

Over the weekend, police charged Franklin J. Medina, 16, no fixed address, and Daniel John Leksen, 18, of the 300 block of Hometown Way with attempted first-degree murder and first-degree assault.

FOR THE RECORD - An article Tuesday about a public school teacher who was beaten in Cockeysville contained incorrect information about the attack. A witness told police she believed the teacher was beaten by a man carrying a chain, but police determined that was not true. Also, the names of two suspects were misspelled. The suspects are Roy G. Higgs and Jimmy W. Zentz. The Sun regrets the errors.

Jimmy W. Zente, 20, no fixed address, was charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault; Roy Gamber Riggs, 17, of the 100 block of Wilgate Road was charged with attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

All four were being held without bail yesterday at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

According to charging documents, Medina told police the attack was unprovoked.

Co-workers said Barnett had moved from southern Pennsylvania to Century Apartments in Cockeysville two weeks ago to be closer to the school where he teaches.

Barnett and two friends were walking in the 10000 block of Woodlake Drive, when someone in another group asked Barnett if he had any cigarettes, according to charging documents.

Barnett said "no" and asked the four young men in the other group "if they had any chew."

The young men followed Barnett and his friends, police documents said, and later asked them if they "wanted to start something."

The group of young men then attacked Barnett and his friend, Jeffrey David Gilbert, according to police documents.

Gilbert and a female friend were able to get away, police said, and the young men continued to beat Barnett, using chains.

According to charging documents, Medina told police he "continued to punch Mr. Barnett in the face and head many times while he was unconscious" and that someone else "stomped [Barnett] in the chest and rib cage."

The suspects allegedly fled because they thought police officers were en route.

Police found Barnett lying in the grass, unconscious and bleeding. Friends said he still cannot talk and is communicating by sign language.

Barnett had just completed "a very successful first year" at Hereford Middle School and was planning to run a summer camp to teach students about animal science, said Ron Hartman, assistant principal.

"He was very enthusiastically received," Hartman said.

In addition to teaching about subjects like landscaping and mechanics, he helped run science and conservation clubs, where students learned how to take care of animals.

"He thrives on his job. He loves the kids," Hartman said. "We are just troubled that someone as gentle and warm-hearted as him could have something this senseless happen to him."

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