MASON CITY, IA – Ron Jenkins lives just down the street from where Thursday night’s murder happened, and he still can’t believe it.
“Well it’s kind of surprising when I went outside, all the police, it’s a quiet neighborhood, and you never expect anything like this to happen,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins says Thomas Barlas Senior and his family are very well-known in the neighborhood.
“Well I’ve seen the Barlas family forever, going up and down. My daughter went to school with both the boys, it’s a surprise,” said Jenkins.
Longtime friend of the Barlas family and former mayor of Mason City, Carl Miller, tells us he is sad to see this tragic situation playing out.
“Because they were wonderful people and it’s just very hard to fathom this occurring,” said Miller.
Miller says while he served as mayor, he, Kathy and Tom Senior partnered up to help build Music Man Square.
What he remembers the most are the long talks he and Tom Sr. had after city council meetings.
“Going out there to the Prime N Wine after the meetings, we’d call it the post meetings of the city council and Tom would make me what he called the mayor’s steak and we’d share many conversations,” said Miller.
But now as Miller and many others mourn the loss of Barlas Sr., Jenkins says it’s just another reminder that life can change in any one moment.
“Never say never. You don’t know what will happen. They’re a pretty supportive neighborhood, kind of looks after each other. I think it will be alright,” said Jenkins.
The Barlas family is also known in the community for their involvement in the restaurant business.
They had connections to Papas American Café and Prime N Wine back in the past.
Tom Barlas Sr. also managed the Fourth Street Diner that was located in the Hanford Inn.
And it seems running restaurants ran in the family.
His other son, George, owns Chop and Eleven in Mason City.
The suspect in the murder case, Tom Jr. worked as a chef there.
Customers of Chop say Tom Jr. is a man who takes great pride in how customers are treated.
“He was a very, very proud of his work. He always wanted to hear about it. I remember last time I went there was with some coworkers and I went to the bar the next night and sat down and talked. He was just very proud of what he did,” said Theo Bhagyam.
Theo says outside of work Tom Barlas Jr. always seemed to have a smile on his face.
Employees from Chop tell us the restaurant will be closed for the weekend.