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November 26, 2015

Homeless man beaten outside Olney gas station in April dies

The brutal attack was captured on video; adult and youth suspects could face upgraded charges

Crime Death
Robert Barnes Diane Barnes/for PhillyVoice

Robert Barnes remained comatose for months after a brutal attack outside an Olney gas station. His family announced his death on Nov. 25, 2015.

A homeless man left comatose after a brutal beating which was caught on video outside an Olney gas station in April has died.

Relatives of Robert Barnes, 51, announced his passing on Facebook on Wednesday.

“God bless my nephew,” wrote Barnes' uncle, Jimmy, noting that he assumes the charges against three juveniles already sentenced in the case and three adults awaiting trial “will be upgraded to homicide in the coming days.”

Said Robert Barnes’ sister Diane, “My brother was no saint my any means, but what [the suspects allegedly] did to him was disgusting. Now, his life was cut short because [they] decided to take the law into their own hands. I hope they pay the ultimate price: Life in jail!”

The suspects are accused of attacking Barnes, a Roxborough native, outside a Sunoco gas station at 5th St. and Somerville Ave. on April 7.

Footage from nearby surveillance cameras shows the group beating Barnes with their feet and fists, a hammer, a piece of wood and pepper spray.

Three youths – a 12-year-old girl and 13- and 14-year-old boys – were sentenced on assault charges in July.

The cases against the trio of adult women believed to be involved – Aleathea Gillard, the 34-year-old mother of the two youngest defendants; Shareena Joachim, 23; and Kaisha Duggins, 24 – were already scheduled for a status hearing on Dec. 4. It remains to be seen how this news affects those hearings.

The assault was allegedly precipitated by Gillard's 10-year-old son claiming Barnes hit him during an argument about who would pump gas for customers, an allegation that investigators later dismissed. Investigators said they later learned that he fell off his bicycle on the way home and made up a story to avoid getting in trouble for being late.

Robert Barnes is the nephew of William Barnes, aka the "East Germantown Cowboy" who served 16 years after shooting a police officer in 1966 but was controversially re-arrested on homicide charges when the officer died in 2007. Years of legal wrangling ended when William Barnes, 75, was granted parole in 2012.

Attempts to reach the District Attorney’s Office for comment on Thursday morning were unsuccessful as it’s closed until Monday.