Why Rusty Barnhart Won't Be Charged for Horrific Rape Linked to His DNA

Rusty Barnhart. Additional images and more below.
Rusty Barnhart. Additional images and more below.
Weld County Sheriff's Office

There's no lack of evidence against Rusty Barnhart regarding a sexual assault that dates back to 1984.

DNA ties him to the crime, and an arrest affidavit on view below quotes him as admitting that he had sex with a woman under very similar circumstances around that time after Inocencio "Junior" Trevino, who's also charged in the case, claimed that the victim "wanted it."

Nonetheless, neither Barnhart nor Trevino is being charged with sexual assault, because the statute of limitations for this offense has expired — and that would be true even if a current piece of Colorado legislation extending these limits becomes law.

Instead, the men face kidnapping charges that could net a sentence as small as four years behind bars.

Barnhart is a registered sex offender in Texas with a lengthy record documented pictorially by mug shots accessible online.

Here are two examples....

Rusty Barnhart.
Rusty Barnhart.

...and another.....

Rusty Barnhart.
Rusty Barnhart.

...and a fourth....

Rusty Barnhart.
Rusty Barnhart.

...plus one more:

Rusty Barnhart.
Rusty Barnhart.

The facts of the local case may disturb some readers.

During the early-morning hours of July 31, 1984, the affidavit says, a waitress at a Denny's restaurant walked home after completing her shift.

As she was strolling near 8th Avenue and 16th Street, she told investigators, she saw two men jogging toward her; she thought they might have emerged from a laundromat.

Upon catching up with her, the woman maintained, they forced her into an alley immediately north of a gas station on the intersection's corner.

One of the men held her from behind, she said, while the other "took a twig and threatened to shove it down her throat and kill her if she didn't do as they said," the police report states.

A gas station on the corner of 8th Avenue and 16th Street captured in a 2012 Google Maps image.
A gas station on the corner of 8th Avenue and 16th Street captured in a 2012 Google Maps image.
Google Maps

The woman said the men forced her to perform oral sex and subjected her to vaginal and anal sex until a car passed by.

At that point, they relocated about half a block away and continued the assault.

Afterward, the men "told her not to go anywhere" — and she believed that one of them took her Denny's name badge off her work blouse, presumably as a souvenir.

The victim immediately reported what happened to police and submitted to a sexual-assault examination. But the case went dormant after that, and it didn't return to life until 2015, following the passage of a bill the previous year that "provided funding for testing evidence of unsolved sexual assault investigations," the 19th Judicial District DA's office notes.

The analysis scored hits with two men: Trevino and Barnhart.

Inocencio "Junior" Trevino.
Inocencio "Junior" Trevino.
Colorado Department of Corrections

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At the time, Trevino was a guest of Colorado's Department of Corrections. During an interview, he admitted to living in the Greeley area in 1984, but he denied taking part in the kidnapping and rape of the woman.

For his part, Barnhart was living in Brownfield, Texas. During a conversation with a Colorado investigator this past February, he, too, confirmed that he lived in Colorado around the time of the crime and said he knew Trevino, with whom he "used to work in the onion fields."

Then, after initially denying participation in the aforementioned assault, the affidavit says, he began talking about a night of drinking with Trevino that included a stop at a laundromat. He added that he "remembered seeing a girl walking outside and Trevino running after her."

By the time he caught up, Barnhart continued, Trevino was having sex with the woman. When Trevino offered to let him have a turn, he took him up on the offer.

This quasi-confession, coupled with the DNA evidence, would seem to offer all a prosecutor might need.

However, 19th Judicial District DA Michael Rourke points out that the statute of limitations on sexual assault in Colorado currently stands at ten years — less than a third of the span since the 1984 attack.

19th Judicial District DA Michael Rourke.
19th Judicial District DA Michael Rourke.

House Bill 16-1260, legislation introduced during the current general assembly term under the sponsorship of Senator John Cooke, initially called for eliminating the statute of limitations entirely, Rourke notes in a news release. But as it went through the legislative process, an amendment changed the limit to twenty years — double what's presently in place, but still not enough to cover the Barnhart-Trevino prosecution.

Hence, Rourke is charging the men with second-degree kidnapping, a crime that carries a possible sentence of between four and 24 years.

On April 13, the amended version of HB 16-1260 was referred to the Senate Committee of the Whole after passing the House — and even though Rourke wishes it had remained in its original form, he supports its passage.

“Every extra year we are afforded to solve these crimes and hold offenders accountable is a step in the right direction for victims,” he states. “It is time for our state laws to catch up with our technology and ability to hold offenders accountable for their actions.”

Both Barnhart and Trevino are scheduled for court appearances in May. Look below to see a larger version of Barnhart's most recent mug shot, followed by the arrest affidavit and HB 16-1260.

Rusty Barnhart.
Rusty Barnhart.
Weld County Sheriff's Office


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