Into last Saturday evening the work went on. From the street
that winds a few blocks from the center of the University of
Miami campus, you could see movement behind the curtain
shrouding the wide window of the third-floor student apartment:
An explosion of light, then dimness again, as Metro-Dade
investigators stepped over blood, focused the camera and took
picture after picture of the place where the bodies had been
found, the rooms, this freakish end of life. Occasionally, young
men and women would walk by as night came down, and they would
slow their steps and stop at the yellow crime tape, lingering to
look up to apartment 36C. You could see shadows moving there.
Another flash. Then another.
Up in that room the body of 22-year-old Miami linebacker Marlin
Barnes had been discovered by Earl Little, a Hurricanes
cornerback who was more than a teammate or a roommate, who was
as close to Barnes as a brother. Little had tried to enter the
apartment at 7:30 that morning and couldn't because the door was
blocked by Barnes's corpse, which had been bludgeoned to death
with a blunt object "akin to a baseball bat," according to a
police source. "There's a body in my apartment," Little screamed
as he ran down the stairs. Actually, there were two. The other,
that of 22-year-old Timwanika Lumpkins, a friend of Barnes's
from high school, was still alive; she would die en route to
Jackson Memorial Hospital. Like Barnes, she had been beaten
severely about her upper torso. Police say they believe the
killings were not random, but that Barnes and Lumpkins were
Now, though the night seemed calm enough, though the roar could
be heard from the Florida State-Miami baseball game going on
nearby, all sense of normalcy had been swept from the Miami
campus. At a press conference that afternoon, school president
Edward (Tad) Foote said, "Our lives will never be quite the same."
Who? Why? Those simple questions were sure to dominate the
coming days in South Florida as on-campus security was doubled
and investigators--who as of Monday night had not produced a
suspect or motive for the murders--tried to explain the most
gruesome crime in the history of the school. A pall has hung
over the Hurricanes' football program since it last won a
national championship, in 1991, but nothing had come close to
this. Only weeks after Dennis Erickson's bitter departure from
Miami to coach the Seattle Seahawks a year and a half ago,
reports had surfaced of his drinking problems; defensive lineman
Warren Sapp had seen his NFL draft status plummet from the
projected No. 1 pick to the 12th player selected last spring,
after reports that he had failed drug tests while playing for
Miami; former Hurricanes wide receiver Brian Blades, now with
the Seahawks, had been arrested last July and charged with
manslaughter in the shooting death of his cousin (his trial
begins April 29); last December the NCAA had placed Miami on
probation for various rules violations; and earlier this month
former Miami wide receiver Michael Irvin, now of the Dallas
Cowboys, had been indicted on possessing cocaine and marijuana.
But all of that paled now. "We've been through some things
here," said Miami athletic director Paul Dee, "but this is
April 21, 1996
Barnes, a six-foot, 210-pound junior, had overcome much to get
where he was as a player and student. His father, Mackey, had
been shot and killed when Marlin was two years old. Marlin had
been raised in the projects of Liberty City, in northwest Miami,
by his mother, Charlie Postell, who later had moved herself and
her four children to the safer streets of Carol City, 25 miles
away. After having failed to score 700 on his SATs, Marlin had
endured a year at a military prep school to lift his grades, had
been admitted to Miami and had become the example that his
brothers, sister and cousins all emulated. "This is tearing the
whole family apart," Marlin's aunt Carolyn Postell said on
Sunday. "We all looked up to him, trying to make something out
of himself, trying to get a career. He showed the family. I
didn't get my diploma. He got his diploma and went to college.
Everybody in the family loved that. He set a good example for
Two days before his death, Barnes, who was the backup to
starting weakside linebacker Twan Russell, had been named Most
Improved Player at the close of spring practice; he expected to
compete for the starting job this fall. Barnes--with former North
Miami High teammates Little, Nate Brooks, now a cornerback at
Miami, and Lawrence Wright, now a safety at Florida, and with
Florida State running back Rock Preston--was one of the founders
of The Right Track, a privately funded program for at-risk kids
in Miami. "He was always, 'Whatever you need me to do,'" Wright
said on Sunday night. "He was always unselfish, just giving his
heart to other people."
In the weeks leading up to his death, said Hurricanes receiver
Lamont Cain, "I remember him just getting close to the Lord.
We'd sit down together and go over things in the Bible, and he'd
actually ask questions about what we need to do to get to Heaven."
But Barnes didn't live like a monk. He liked to joke and laugh,
and he liked to stay out late. Last Friday night he met up with
Lumpkins at a South Beach nightclub called Salvation, which was
the site of a party hosted by Miami Dolphins safety Louis
Oliver. A week earlier Barnes had helped Lumpkins, who had also
attended North Miami High and who until recently had been
working for AT&T, move out of the apartment she had shared with
her boyfriend, Anthony Dennis, and their two-year-old daughter,
Antonicia, and into her grandmother's house near the campus.
Timwanika's brother, Daniel, said that she and Dennis had been
arguing. "She'd tell him she didn't want to see him, and he
didn't know how to handle it," Daniel said. Metro-Dade police
interviewed Dennis over the weekend and said he had accounted
for his whereabouts at the time of the murders. But they refused
to rule him, or anyone else, out as a suspect.
According to police, when Barnes and Lumpkins left the club
early Saturday morning, Barnes found that the tires on the car
he had borrowed from Little had been slashed. A tow truck
brought Barnes and Lumpkins back to campus around 3:30 a.m. Four
hours later Little tried opening the apartment door, peeked in
and saw Barnes and what police spokesman Tony Carvajal called "a
lot of blood." Lumpkins was found in another room. Investigators
said they also found fingerprints in the apartment that they
believe belong to the killer.
When the news broke on Saturday, the Miami players gathered in
an athletic department conference room to cry and talk among
themselves. They then met with counselors and coaches. "Time
will be the only thing that will heal any of it," said coach
Butch Davis, "but the pain and the agony is going to be there
for a long time."
Wright knows; he lost his best friend two years ago to a heart
attack, and now one of his closest high school friends has been
killed. "I'm still in shock," he said on Sunday night. "It's
difficult for me to lose two people close to me, so close
together." Then Wright, for the first time, heard that Lumpkins
was the other victim. He went silent for a long time. "We
actually went together in high school," he finally said. "We had
a relationship. This is pretty tough."
As for the still shaken campus in Coral Gables, Foote pointed
out, the timing "could hardly be worse." The day after the
bodies were discovered, hundreds of incoming students arrived
for a campuswide open house, expecting warm words about the
future. Instead, they got warnings about walking alone at night
and admonitions about allowing only someone you know to enter
your room. "This is still a wonderful university at which to
study," Foote said.
On the other side of Miami, the blinds were drawn tight in the
Postell house in Carol City against a sunlight warming and
beautiful and too terrible to face. The phone kept ringing.
Friends and family kept knocking on the door, and Charlie would
see them coming and the pain would get worse all over again. She
had loved to watch her son play. She loved to go to games and
scream his name. Often, after working her security job at the
Doral resort, she would go by the practice field just to see
Marlin run. "Even if it was just 25 or 30 minutes," she said,
"just to watch him practice."
Two detectives shuffled in then. She went with them to a back
room for a long time. They gave her the things they had removed
from Marlin's body: his ring, his necklaces. "His watch, too,"
said Marlin's 20-year-old brother, Gary. "They say his watch
popped off. He must've been fighting."
But that wasn't Marlin's way. "Always joyful," Charlie said.
"He's my son. I gave birth to him, and after 22 years there's
nothing bad I can say about him. He never, ever gave me any
trouble. Always peaceful."
Then there was one more phone call, from her brother, and
Charlie tried to explain while the rest of her family sat and
whispered. She stood by the wall with all Marlin's awards--his
varsity letters, a picture of him in his cap and gown, the
grant-in-aid to Miami, an Orange Bowl plaque--his entire life,
and it was too much, all of it: She put down the phone, tears
streaming, and walked in a diagonal line across the living room,
her sorrow a loud howl. Everyone went quiet. Everyone looked
"He was always unselfish, just giving his heart to other people."
"This is still a wonderful university at which to study."