Overview of Dr. James Elbert "Eb" Barnes
At 1:30 pm on May 16th, 2003, authorities respond to a silent alarm indicating a robbery in progress at the Blue Ridge Savings Bank in Greer, South Carolina. Dispatchers immediately phone the bank to check in, but the phone is answered and quickly disconnected. The authorities arrive at the bank around 1:45 pm to find Sylvia Holtzclaw, James Eb Barnes, and Maggie Barnes shot to death in a utility room. The case remains unsolved to this day.
Dr. James Elbert Barnes, known as "Eb", was born in Kingsport, TN, on June 5, 1942. He met his wife Margaret at King College in Bristol, TN, when he was a senior and she a freshman, and they married in 1965. Eb received a Master of Teaching Arts degree from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in Physics from Clemson University. He taught Physics at the University of South Carolina, Spartanburg, for 28 years, and he was known for wearing a Santa Claus hat with his academic robes during winter commencement ceremonies. Three of the police officers who arrived at the crime scene were Eb's former students. Eb and Margaret had three children, and they were cherished members of their community.
Sylvia Holtzclaw, the bank teller at Blue Ridge Savings Bank, was the only employee working on that fateful afternoon in 2003. According to Sylvia's son, David, Sylvia was extremely precautious and even kept a detailed notebook of necessary safety procedures with her at the bank. She was a friendly and trustworthy bankteller who loved her job. David saw his mother that day, May 16, 2003, at around 12:50 pm, when he arrived at the bank to bring his mother a sandwhich, as she was unable to get off of work to spend lunch with him. Sylvia was alone when David arrived and when he left, but a customer arrived shortly after this visit for a routine wire transfer, staying for about 10 minutes; it is unclear whether Eb and Maggie Barnes entered the bank before the robbery began or while the robbery was already taking place.
The "bill-trap alarm" was triggered at 1:30 pm, and the security company responded with a call to the bank, which was quickly answered and disconnected. The victims, who were discovered in a back room of the bank, would have been led down a hallway that displayed a security device indicating that an alarm had been triggered. The victims were shot with a 40-caliber glock pistol, and the killer(s) were gone within 15 minutes. When authorities arrived on the scene at 1:45 pm, the only vehicles in the parking lot were those of the victims, a white Pontiac and a Ford Ranger pickup truck. Inside the bank, cash was missing from the cash drawer, and the bank's VHS security tape, which should have recorded the crime, was missing from the device; it is believed that the killer(s) removed the tape from the device before leaving the crime scene. A nearby gas station provided security footage pointing towards the road that leads to the bank, which was studied vigorously. A possible lead emerged as a red vehicle, possibly an Oldsmobile Alero or Chevrolet Impala, could be seen driving towards the bank in the time shortly before the murders, and away from the bank in the time after the murders, but the footage is too blurry to make out a license plate.
Though authorities have recieved hundreds of tips over the years, the case remains unsolved. If you have any information regarding the murders of Sylvia Holtzclaw, James Eb Barnes, and Maggie Barnes, please contact the Greer Police Department at (864) 848-2151 or the Greenville FBI Office at (803) 551-4200.