The Continuing Mystery of Cory Barron’s Death at a Country Concert

22-year-old Cory Barron was a senior at Bowling Green State University in Ohio when he decided to attend a Jason Aldean concert at Progressive Field in Cleveland on July 18th, 2014. Also playing at the show were Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, and Tyler Farr. Barron attended the concert with numerous friends, everyone was reportedly having a great time, and at about 9:30 pm, Cory decided to leave his ticketed seat to visit another group of friends in a different section of the ballpark. He never returned.

As the concert ended, the friends of Cory Barron couldn’t find him. They searched the entire ballpark, hung around to see if he would show up, called friends to confirm he didn’t leave with someone else, with no clue of where he’d disappeared to. By Saturday morning, a missing persons report was filed. The situation was so unusual, law enforcement immediately began conducting a search, and the FBI got involved.

Every inch of the ballpark was searched three times just to make sure the young man wasn’t still there. Surveillance camera footage was poured over, and found nothing suspicious. A search was conducted by air and watercraft to see if Cory Barron could be found. Nothing turned up.

Then four days later, on July 22nd, 2014, The Lorain County Sheriff’s Department received a call from a local landfill. They had found a man’s body in a dumpster that had been transported from Progressive Field. It didn’t take them long to determine that it was the missing young man from Fremont, OH. Cory Barron still had his ID on him, and his ticket stub from the Jason Aldean show.

Over eight years later, and after lengthy investigations from multiple law enforcement entities and private investigators hired by the family, there is still no explanation as to what happened to Cory Barron. But after eight years of the family insisting foul play must have been involved, the manner of Barron’s death has finally been changed from undetermined to a homicide by local authorities.

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Cory Barron’s death came during a very tumultuous year in country music. The culture war had cut a rift right down the center of the genre. The “Bro-Country” style of music indicative of artists like Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line was at its commercial peak, importing scores of fans from outside of country music into the ranks of country fans, while the rise of Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell from the independent side of country was challenging the mainstream’s monopoly on the genre.

In the summer of 2014 specifically, it was the behavior of country music concertgoers that was creating national news. 55 People Were Arrested, and 22 Hospitalized in what local authorities characterized as a “mass casualty” event at a Keith Urban concert in Massachusetts. A Luke Bryan concert in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field resulted in huge amounts of trash, as well as many arrests and hospitalizations. Three people were stabbed at We Fest in Minnesota, a woman was gang raped at Michigan’s Faster Horses Festival, and a drunk driver ran over a police officer at a Jason Aldean concert in Hartford, CT.

These incidents and multiple others compounded into many asking, What is going on with country music concerts this summer? like The Washington Post did. Rolling Stone interviewed Eric Church and Jason Aldean about what the magazine called Country’s Corrupted Concert Season. Jason Aldean responded,

“You want people to come out to your show to enjoy it and everybody to wake up the next day and talk about what a great time they had. You don’t want somebody to come to the show and never make it home. Unfortunately that kind of stuff is out of our hands. People are adults and are responsible for their own actions. You come to a show and plan on drinking, get a driver. Call a cab. That’s things that adults should just know. We can’t make people do that stuff.”

Jason Aldean had said previously about the disappearance and death of Cory Barron at the July 18th concert, “My sincere condolences go out to Cory Barron’s family and friends. My heart is heavy for you all and you are in my thoughts and prayers.”

But still, there were no specific answers as to what happened to Cory Barron. Though there had been rumors that at some point when the 22-year-old left his assigned seat to find his other friends, an argument or altercation might have ensued with some other concertgoers that could have ultimately led to his death, nothing had been confirmed at that point.

Police investigators were unable to find any suspect or motive, but they were able to retrace how Cory Barron ended up in a dumpster, just not why. The investigation determined that Barron had fallen down a trash chute from an upper level of Progressive Field. It was a five-story fall, and caused multiple blunt force injuries on his way down, and death on impact. An autopsy revealed that Barron did have alcohol in his system, which wouldn’t have been unusual for a concert setting. No drugs were detected.

The location of the trash chute was in the same general vicinity as Cory Barron’s ticketed seat at the concert, but it was located in a back room in the ballpark behind two double doors, meaning in an area not easily accessible by the public. And to enter the trash chute, someone would have to crawl into it. It’s not something someone would just accidentally fall into thinking they were entering a bathroom, for example.

Location of the double doors leading to the trash chute on the concourse
Doors leading to the trash chute.

Still, with no specific evidence that an altercation had occurred, Lorain County Coroner Dr. Steven Evans ruled that there was no foul play involved, and the death appeared to be an accident. “I’m less than happy,” said the corner himself about the findings. “We’ll never know the circumstances of how he wound up in the trash chute. I wish I had that for the family.”

But the family was not satisfied with this conclusion, especially with the rumors that at some point, Cory Barron may have been involved in an altercation with others. So in 2019, desperate for answers, the family of Cory Barron hired private detective Dick Wrenn, set up a hotline for anyone to provide information ((440)-333-6602), purchased billboards in the area, and offered up a $50,000 reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of those involved in the young man’s death.

“We believe that somebody hit him in the head, kicked him in the ribs, picked him up and dropped him down that chute,” said Dick Wrenn.

But local officials and the Lorain County Coroner’s Office remained less convinced, until earlier this month. On November 14th, the Corner’s Office released a statement, saying “Since the death of Cory Barron in 2014, additional investigation has been conducted by private investigators and the Cleveland Division of Police. The Lorain County Coroner has been provided with information by the Cleveland Police that Cory Barron was involved in an altercation at Progressive Field prior to his disappearance and death. In light of the additional information, his death was due to the actions or failure to act of another person or persons. The manner of death for Cory Barron has been changed from undetermined to homicide.

The corner goes on to say that the manner of death is unchanged, that multiple blunt impacts from the fall through the trash chute and ultimately landing in the dumpster is how Cory Barron died, but that someone must have forced him into the chute as opposed to accidentally ending up there. Potentially, injuries inflicted before Barron ended up in the trash chute could also be possible, and be potentially indistinguishable from the other injuries incurred during the fall.

“Cory was not a fighter,”
explains private investigator Dick Wren. “He had no history of being a fighter. He’s a good sized young many. There are too many people around in that location for someone not to have seen something. There’s just no reason to believe that was a deliberate or accidental act.”

Whether the summer of 2014 in country music was truly one of unprecedented out-of-control behavior, violence, fights, rapes, arrests, injuries, and even deaths due to the depravity of Bro-Country culture, if it’s attributable to something else entirely, or if it simply became an topic of interest in the media (including here at Saving Country Music) is open to interpretation.

All of the media coverage and high-profile incidents seemed to portend a shift in the country genre that would come the next year, with Chris Stapleton winning major accolades at the 2015 CMA Awards, and country music slowly turning its back on the Bro-Country era, and artists like Florida Georgia Line who played the Progressive Field concert with Jason Aldean.

But for the family of Cory Barron, the matter remains unresolved. Nothing will bring Cory back, but not knowing if his killer or killers are potentially still at large denies them closure surrounding the loss of their son.

The Lorain County Coroner’s Office changing the manner of death to a homicide is a significant development, and helps validate the family’s suspicions. But somewhere out there may still be a country music fan who saw something that night that could be the missing piece to solving what increasingly seems to be the murder of Cory Barron at Jason Aldean’s July 18th, 2014 concert at Progressive Field.

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