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Statesboro woman charged with arson and aggravated assault

A woman arrested Wednesday, charged with setting a Hinesville-area mobile home on fire with her children inside, worked and lived in Statesboro, investigators said.
     Julie Lynette Barnard, 35,  is suspected to have set fire to her estranged husband's Gum Branch mobile home early Wednesday morning with him and their four children inside, said  Liberty County Fire Coordinator James Ashdown.
    Barnard, who has been separated from John Barnard for a month, works at Statesboro's Wal-Mart Distribution Center and has been living in Statesboro for the past month since the separation, he said.
    Barnard went to her husband's house to pick up their children to spend the summer with her and decided to stay the night because she was tired, he said.
    But Liberty County firefighters were called to the scene around 4:50 a.m. Wednesday and found the house in flames. John Barnard shoved an air conditioning unit out of a window and escaped while the couple's 16-year-old daughter used a boom box to shatter a window, Ashdown said.
    She and her three brothers - 11, 13 and 14 - escaped through the shattered window. The girl suffered cut tendons on her fingers; the oldest boy suffered lacerations and the two youngest boys suffered scratches, he said.
    Ashdown said he is not sure of the woman's motive. "She's not talking, (except) denying she had anything to do with it."
    Investigators suspect she was the one to set several fires inside the home because she fled after taking the children to the hospital, he said. She took the children to the emergency room while John Barnard used a neighbor's phone to call for help.
    "There were several points of origin" for the fire, which indicated the blaze was arson, he said.
    Ashdown said he and other investigators were also searching the area near the home Thursday for " a possible weapon" Barnard may have thrown into some woods.
    "Her mental state is not right," he said. "I think she needs to be evaluated."
    Barnard explained her flight after dropping the children off at the emergency room as being because "she freaked out," he said.
    The Barnards had lived elsewhere in the Hinesville area until the separation a month ago, Ashdown said. After the separation, Julie Barnard moved to Statesboro and John Barnard moved with the children to the Gum Branch home.
    After she fled, Barnard went to Long County, where she was picked up in a traffic stop and arrested by Long County law enforcement. She was taken to the Liberty County Jail and charged with first degree arson and five counts of aggravated assault, he said.
    Ashdown said Barnard may have fled to Long County because that is where her sister, who was murdered in the Hinesville area several years ago, is buried.
    The case remains under investigation, he said. Barnard is being held in the Liberty County Jail without bond. A first appearance hearing will be held later today  to determine whether a bond will be set, he said.

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