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Family shocked by couple's deaths

Sep. 06, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Shock and dismay fill the mind of Milissa Ovitt days after police found her cousin, Barry Allen Stewart, and his ex-wife, Kimberly Ann Stines, dead at his residence in East Pea Ridge.

The on- and off-again couple was last seen Saturday night among those attending the home opener to Marshall University's football season. Ovitt said mutual friends spotted them together at tailgate gatherings and described the couple as the happiest they had been for a long time.

Stewart then disappeared. Ovitt said he didn't make routine calls to his mother and failed to appear for work Tuesday at a wireless phone retailer along U.S. 60. His mother found their bodies Tuesday morning.

"I am so deeply and profoundly shaken by what has happened, and sad, that I can't even put words to it," said Ovitt, who traveled from her Pennsylvania home upon word of their deaths.

West Virginia State Police have stopped short of calling the deaths a murder-suicide, but referred to it as an act of domestic violence. They said the shootings were an isolated incident between the two parties and were contained within Stewart's residence at 6291 Division Road. Police found one firearm in the home, but they have not identified the owner.

County records show the couple married in late January 2010. A divorce was granted months later in October, but witnesses say Stines continued to live at the residence off and on. Ovitt thinks the couple married too soon and believes they struggled between not wanting to be apart and finding peace in living together.

"How, when everybody seemed so happy on Saturday, what happened?" she repeatedly asked. "How did this happen? That is what nobody knows. We don't understand. We don't know, and I think that's what is making this so hard is that we have no idea how this would have happened."

Ovitt acknowledged the couple's troubles and what might have ended their lives, but took exception with the phrase "domestic violence." She called Stewart, whom she considered to be as close as a brother, a mild-mannered, quick-witted person who loved the guitar.

"I mean they argued, they fought, they may have yelled at each other, but there was never any violence," she said. "I don't even know that objects were ever picked up and thrown."

A domestic violence petition filed by Stines against Stewart was dismissed in March 2013. The order indicates Stines failed to prove the allegations by a preponderance of the evidence.

Members of Stines' family declined comment Wednesday when reached by The Herald-Dispatch. She is survived by a teenage daughter from a prior relationship and other relatives. Funeral services for Stines will be conducted at 1 p.m. Saturday at Heck Funeral Home in Milton. Visitation is from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Heck Funeral Home.

Stewart was an only child survived by his mother, Danelle Stewart. He had no children of his own. Family members are planning a private celebration of his life to be held at a later date.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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