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 targeted.
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 amazing tragedy."
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 our children."
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."