RACINE, Wisc. (CN) – A Wisconsin judge was found dead in a Racine park, an apparent suicide. Racine County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Barry was found on the bank of a river with a single gunshot wound to the head.
Racine County Medical Examiner Tom Terry told the Wisconsin Law Journal, “We are satisfied that the wound was self-induced and there won’t be an autopsy done.”
Terry said Barry was last seen leaving the courthouse after 3 p.m. Wednesday. His wife reported him missing Thursday around 6:30 a.m.
Terry said police and prosecutors determined there would be no further investigation.
Barry, 64, was a 1973 graduate of Marquette University Law School. He worked as an assistant prosecutor in Kenosha County and in private practice before becoming Racine County District Attorney in 1978, after a close election that went to a recount. Judge Barry took the bench in Racine County in 1980. He was re-elected this spring and was serving in the civil division.
Few details about Barry’s death have been released, but many state officials and politicians have commented on the loss.
“It’s a shock,” Racine County Court Clerk Rose Lee said. “This is a tremendous loss to the county. Judge Barry was very much loved and adored.”
Racine’s state senator, Van Wanggaard, said in a statement: “You could not find a man with greater integrity than Judge Dennis Barry. I knew Judge Barry for over 40 years – he handled my first criminal case, and he swore me into the state Senate earlier this year. Judge Barry was a courageous fighter for the city and county of Racine, and the entire state of Wisconsin. I will miss him as a personal friend, and Racine will miss him as the asset to community he strove to be.”
Former state Rep. Bonnie Ladwig said, “He was one of the best judges Racine County had. He was a caring person. He looked at all sides of story. He was thoughtful and thorough, and he wanted to do what was right.”
Ladwig worked with Barry on a committee that changed a law that said no one under the age of 12 could be charged with a crime, even in juvenile courts. The change came after an 11-year-old committed a murder in 1992. He shot a man for some older teen-agers who told him he could not go to jail for it. Ladwig said Barry “wanted to hold people responsible and he didn’t think it was fair for those people to use that younger boy like that.”