Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree murder charge against Eric Barnes, 29, of Dorchester after a young woman named Brianna L. Erickson, a central witness in the case, died in jail. Authorities say the death was a suicide, but a close family friend says Erickson was distressed and feared for her safety.
“The evidence developed thus far by Boston Police homicide detectives and the district attorney’s office is that [Erickson’s death] was a non-homicide,” said Jake M. Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, adding that his department pays special attention to deaths in custody.
Wark also said he has not obtained any information that Erickson was intimidated in jail.
“Obviously, if there was an allegation for that, we would look into it,” he said.
The testimony of Erickson, 22, who died while in South Bay House of Correction on May 8, 2014, was considered critical for Barnes’ trial to proceed. While the official investigation into her death is ongoing, the district attorney’s office said all evidence points to her taking her own life.