Emma Barker ~ It's Been A Year ~ March 18, 2009 - March 18, 2010
Last year at this time Stacey Barker had just celebrated her 24th Birthday. She had a full time job, a love of parties and a new man in her life. Unlike many young people her age, Stacey didn't live her life in FaceBook or MySpace - although she had an account, she seemed to use it sparingly. There were party pictures and photo's of Stacey, that would have made a nice portfolio. Count down messages to Brandon, regarding a Nascar weekend, the occasional; 'we should get together, soon' from old friends and 'Hi! How are you?' from potential new friends. Nothing that made Barker's MySpace account any different from thousands of other young girls who lived with their parents, while deciding what to do with the rest of their life.
Except for Emma, Barkers 18 month old daughter. Absolutely beautiful, the apple of her grandpa's eye and keeper of her uncle's heart. Emma had captured the whole family when she came into their lives on Sept 2, 2007. Every morning, Barker got up early and headed to work. Her mother, Sue worked the 3rd shift and her brother Nick, a full time college student arranged their schedules so Emma didn't go to day care. The happy toddler spent her day surrounded by those who loved her most.
Last March 17, the party-mama stayed out celebrating St. Paddy's Day at a local watering hole, with her boyfriend, Brendon, until the wee hours of the morn - March 18. Once she made it home, her head barely had time to hit the pillow before it was time to get up for another day at the office. When Stacey returned from work that afternoon, she fed Emma a Lunchable, for an early supper - while she and her mother had words about the late hours Barker had been keeping. Sue told her daughter, everyone was willingly making sacrifices for Emma except for her, she was no longer willing to keep Emma - so Stacey could run around half the night - Emma needed her mother. Not happy about her mother's decision, Barker told her brother Nick, she was going to take advantage of the nice weather and take Emma to the Lancaster Park, she put her daughter in her car seat and they headed out.
Almost eight hours would go by before she was heard from again. Barker's brother Nick, had spent part of the evening on his computer, messaging back and forth with a girl friend, who teased him about the pictures from his 21st Birthday Party. At 10:30 PM, Nick got an urgent message from his sister, calling from the Avenue S Park 'n Ride in Palmdale - saying she needed him. A second call went to the new man in her life, Brendon. They both showed up, finding Barker alone, half dressed, with bruises on her head and ribs, and appearing to be half - unconscious. Nick placed the 911 call, to report his 18 month old niece missing and an attack on his sister.
LASD later said they were on the scene within four minutes of receiving the call. Barker told Sheriff's Deputies she was at the Lancaster Park, putting Emma in her car seat, when she was attacked from behind. The last thing she remembered was a blow to her head, then coming to some 4 or 5 hours later, nine miles away - with no memory of how she got there. and no knowledge of what happened to Emma. Barker repeatedly told the Law Enforcement Officer's; "I'm a good mom," but said little about Emma; before she was taken by ambulance to a local Medical Center.
A short time later an Amber alert went out in So CAL, for 18 month old Emma Leigh Barker. Her picture showed her to be a perfect doll, with big brown eyes and a sweet, shy, smile. From the first time I saw that picture, there was no doubt in my mind ~ this baby could make the grayest day, feel sunny and bright, if Emma picked you, for one of those smiles.
In a joint effort by LAPD and LASD an intense, all night search for Emma was still underway, when Barker was released to the custody of the LA Sheriff's Department, for questioning. Deputies with search dogs had been scouring the parking lot, going from car to car looking for any sign of the toddler. Close to 9 AM on the 19th, clothing that was later identified as belonging to Stacey was found - hidden behind some bushes, next to the lot.
Early that morning, Stacey's parent's gave a brief statement to the press. Gary Barker told the news team; "Numbness and pain, you can look at it many ways and it you can ask yourself a lot of different questions. No matter what questions you ask, it just does not make sense." Sue Barker tearfully asked; "Whoever has her, give her to someone who can give her back to us. Please, give her back to us, she's just a baby, whoever has her please, give her back to us." Only a woman who has walked in her shoes, can understand the depth of pain, behind Sue Barker's words. 12 months later, my heart still breaks, for Sue Barker and her family.
During questioning that morning, by LASD major crimes investigators, Barker gave inconsistent statements. Changing her story, to fill in the discrepancies Sheriff's Deputies pointed out to her. Shortly before 11AM, Barker broke down; stating that Emma died by accident. Fearing people would think she hurt her daughter, she left Emma, hidden in some tall weeds, in Sylmar - about 50 miles from Lancaster. Then made up the story of the attack. She directed the Sheriff's Officer's where to find Emma's body. The search came to a heart breaking end, 12 hours after it started, when investigators discovered the body of 18 month old Emma Leigh Barker. She was found lying in tall grass, near the Roxford Street off-ramp and El Dorado Avenue, directly off the Golden State Freeway.
News vans had started accumulating in front of the Barkers Antelope Valley home that morning. After hearing the news of Emma's death, a shocked Gary Barker told the AP; Stacey and Emma live in the family home. He called his granddaughter's death, "such an unnatural tragedy" then he recalled the last moments he spent with Emma. His voice was choked with emotion as he said, he last saw her on Tuesday night - when he returned home from work, just before her bedtime. "I was holding her, in the family room and I was dancing with her and slowly dipping her," he said. "She was laughing and smiling and we were looking at each other, eye to eye. After that it was bedtime and Stacey gave her a bottle and put her to bed." Such a loving memory. I have no trouble at all, picturing Mr Barker - holding his little princess, giving her a quick waltz - just for the joy of seeing Emma smile and sending her off, to dream sweet dreams. Knowing how much she is loved, feeling safe and secure, as she drifted off to sleep.
Stacey Barker was released to her parents late that night. Sheriff's Homicide Lt. Pat Nelson told reporters at a news conference Thursday; "At this point, I would not term her a suspect, that may change as circumstances develop. Sheriff's homicide detectives are expected to present their findings to prosecutors in the coming week." The Sheriff's spokesman also said, while the investigation was on going, there were no other suspects.
For the next two days, LASD continued releasing updates. A spokesman for LAPD explained; 'The detectives said inconsistencies developed in Stacy Barker's story early on." Eventually, the 24-year-old told police that it was she who left her baby's body in the thick brush. To reinforce her initial story, of an attack - Barker inflicted wounds to her head and ribs, partially disrobed and faked semiconscious when police arrived. On Friday, coroner's officials conducted an autopsy on Emma's body. Ed Winter, assistant chief coroner, said "A determination of the cause of death was deferred pending further tests." Detectives said there were no visible signs of trauma on her body.
In the days that followed there seemed to be an unnatural hush from the AV. Reached at the family's home, Gary Barker said, there were no words to express how the family is dealing with the news, as they prepared for the toddler's funeral. He described Emma as a "beautiful, happy girl" who smiled from the time she got up - to when she went to bed."You lose it, you get it together, you lose it, you get it together," he told The Associated Press. There are constant reminders of Emma around the house that surface at the most unexpected moments. The TV menu catalogued the last movies they watched together. Emma especially loved "Bee Movie" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks," he said. He declined to comment on his daughter's admission that Emma died accidentally or what led to his granddaughter's death.
Five days later, Emma was laid to rest at the Joshua Memorial Park and Mortuary. Hundreds of friends, family and members of the community showed up to say a final good bye, to a baby who touched more people in 18 short months, than many people do in 50 years. Barely able to talk, Emma said it all with her smile. Eulogized as "A princess and a little girl who always had a smile on her face." Many of Emma's friends wore a small LadyBug Pin in her memory. A little Angel, who loved to dance and loved music - was taken too soon. There were sounds of sorrow echoing through the small chapel, as people tried to grasp the reality that the baby whose smiling face was reflected in a running slide show, was truly gone. During the service, Stacey sat between parents Susan and Gary Barker, holding their hands.
While at first Stacey seemed to have trouble describing exactly how she felt; at 7:42 PM on March 27, she set her MySpace account to: Mood: miserable - doesn't know how to live without my baby - she then waxed poetic for a few minutes, just days after Emma was laid to rest.
When God call little children to dwell with him above, we mortals sometimes question the wisdom of his love.
Perhaps god tires of calling the aged to his fold, so he picks a rosebud before it can grow old. God knows how much we need them and how he takes but few to make the land of heaven more beautiful to view.
Believing this is difficult still somehow we must try, the saddest word mankind knows, will always be "goodbye."
So when a little child departs, we who are left behind must realize god loves children, Angels are hard to find.
For those who had been following this tragedy since late night, March 18, 2009, this was one of the hardest vigils ever held. Waiting - to know that someone was going to be held accountable for Emma's death, the time seemed to drag on and on. There was no press coverage releasing up dates. Nancy Grace picked up the story for a few days; but she needs drama to hold her interest and Emma's story, while full of pathos, was a minus one, on the drama scale.
The type of drama that usually follows a story like this never appeared. The Barker Family, had friends and supporters coming from all over. Old friends, friends of friends and relatives were quick to show up at local on line news sites, asking people to wait to hear the whole story before convicting Stacey. More so, asking people to respect the Barker's - a family understandably crushed over the horrific loss of not only an innocent baby, but also their much loved only daughter.
In the weeks following Emma's funeral, the rumor mills from the AV never subsided. It is such a small community, attached to one of the largest cities in the US. Oddly enough - it still has a small town feel. There were rumors of Stacey out partying, there were rumors of sandwiches in baggies, there were rumors that Stacey murdered Emma because the new man in her life doesn't want kids, there were rumors comparing the loss of Emma, to the loss of Caylee, there were rumors, there were rumors....
On April 23, 2009, the local news revealed that Stacey Barker had been arrested. It had been 36 days since Emma had been reported missing. Stacey's brother, Nick, said his sister was arrested at his grandfather's house, where she has been staying "to get away from memories and phone calls and baby stuff." He said his sister says it was an accident but did not tell him anything about what happened or why she changed her story. "Everybody's in shock right now," the 21-year-old told The Associated Press, in a telephone interview from the family home. "We keep finding things out on the news. Nobody in this family would have ever thought of anything like this ever happening."
Stacey Barker, 24, who had been questioned by detectives but released after the March 19 discovery of the body of 18-month-old Emma Barker, was arrested Thursday afternoon and booked at the Lancaster Sheriff's Station on suspicion of second-degree murder, Lt. Don Downton said. Investigators had been waiting for the coroner's office to declare the cause of death, and coroner's officials said Thursday evening that the case had been sealed under a "security hold" and they were not allowed to disclose any information.
"Within the last several weeks investigators were able to interview several people in the case," Lt. Downton said. "Charges are expected to be filed as early as Monday morning, and she could be arraigned as early as Monday morning."
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. Pat Nelson, spoke with reporters saying investigators believe Emma died in the early evening hours on March 18, four or five hours prior to the 911 call. The authorities arrested her on Thursday 4/23, because there were indications she may have been planning on fleeing the area or disappear. "At this point, as best as we can determine, the infant died through suffocation at the hands of the mother," said Nelson. "After her third or fourth version of events, we knew she wasn't telling the truth, and we were able to determine what happened. At this point, we believe she acted alone."
Barker was being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
On April 27, 2009 charges were filed by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office; They include murder in the 2nd degree, assault on a child causing death and child abuse. The complaint alleges "that the defendant willfully caused and permitted the child to be injured and harmed and that injury resulted in death". Sheriff's officials never disclosed what sort of accident Barker said killed her daughter.
Stacey Barker sat in a holding cell, answering Judge Steven Ogden's yes-or-no questions. She showed up for the hearing with cornrow braids in her hair and the yellow uniform of inmates from Los Angeles County Jail. Barker's attorney entered her plea of not guilty to charges of murder, child abuse and ssault on a child causing death on May11, 2009 but refused to comment on the case.
This was written by Emma's friend Tiffany Diamond:
DON'T CRY FOR ME, DON'T SHED A TEAR
TO ALL MY NEW FRIENDS, DON'T CRY FOR ME, DON'T SHED A TEAR, I AM OK, I NO LONGER LIVE IN FEAR....I AM NO LONGER IN FEAR OR PAIN, I AM HAPPY AND FREE THE WAY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE, SO DON'T CRY FOR ME, DON'T SHED A TEAR, I AM OK, NO LONGER LIVING IN FEAR....
I DON'T BLAME THAT WOMAN, FOR I REALIZE SOME PEOPLE HAVE NO HEART OR SOULS, SO PLEASE DON'T CRY FOR ME, DON'T SHED A TEAR, I AM OK, NO LONGER LIVING IN FEAR....
IT IS VERY PRETTY HERE, THE ANGELS ARE ALL AROUND, THE PEOPLE ARE SO GENTLE, PATIENT AND KIND, THE WAY IT IS MEANT TO BE, SO DON'T CRY FOR ME, DON'T SHED A TEAR, I AM OK, NO LONGER LIVING IN FEAR....
I DON'T KNOW WHAT I SAID OR DID, TO BE HERE AND NOT THERE, BUT THAT DOES NOT MATTER, FOR I AM NO LONGER IN PAIN OR FEAR... SO DON'T CRY FOR ME, DON'T SHED A TEAR...
THANK YOU TO ALL MY NEW FRIENDS, WHO CAME TO MY DEFENSE, YOU ARE LIKE THE ANGELS ALL AROUND ME, YOU ARE MY GUARDIAN FENCE, SO PLEASE DON'T CRY FOR ME, DON'T SHED A TEAR, I AM OK, NO LONGER LIVING IN FEAR....
IT IS SO PRETTY HERE, NO MORE NEED FOR FEAR, I EVEN HAVE A FRIEND, WHO IS A LOT LIKE ME "HEY CAYLEE COME HERE..."
I JUST WANT YOU ALL TO KNOW DON'T CRY FOR ME, DON'T SHED A TEAR, I AM OK, NO LONGER IN FEAR...
I REALLY LIKE ALL THE WORK YOU ARE DOING TO KEEP MY MEMORY ALIVE, I JUST WISH THAT LADY LOVED ME, IN THE WAY ALL YOU DO, MAYBE THEN I WOULD BE THERE....
IF SHE JUST GAVE ME A CHANCE, I WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SAY I AM SORRY MOMMY, I WILL BE GOOD NEXT TIME, I WON'T BE LOUD OR GET IN THE WAY, I JUST WANTED TO GIVE YOU A HUG AND SAY I LOVE YOU MOMMY BUT SADLY THAT WILL NEVER BE, BUT I AM OK, I AM NO LONGER IN PAIN, NO LONGER LIVING IN FEAR...... EMMA
The preliminary hearings were held on July 21, and on July 29.
DDA Kelly Comer wanted Judge Carlos Chung, to play to the recorded LASD interviews, so he could hear Barker's tone during the time Det Nava spent listening to her stories. There were no tears, no emotion... the judge felt it was too late in the day and asked for the short version. These recordings should be played, when the case goes to trial.
When Medical Examiner, Dr James Ribe took the stand, he explained Emma was found to have Dimetapp antihistamine in her system, at twice the recommended amount for a toddler Emma's size and weight. The defense tried to explain this finding away, by claiming the Dimetapp was prescribed by Emma's pediatrician, for a peanut allergy, to which Dr. Ribe replied - Emma had no signs of an allergy at the time of her death.
Also revealed at the hearing; Stacey pretended to leave home to go to work on 3-18, instead she returned to Brendon's house, where they slept most of the day, watched some TV and then went to Pollo Loco for lunch. At the appointed hour, Barker changed back into her "work clothes" in time to return home, it was just another ordinary day. Once home, after having angry words with her mother, Stacey took Emma and left the house.
Although Barker told her brother they were going to the park. She later revealed to Det Nava that she actually was heading to Long Beach - she planned on asking Emma's daddy, Anthony for more child support. There was some momentary confusion over this, as it appeared the detective was saying Stacey drove to Long Beach - but Anthony was shaking his head no - that didn't happen. PD Robert Dager, said records show Barker's cellphone connected with service towers near the 405 Freeway in the Lawndale area during the time she claimed she was driving to Long Beach.
LASD Detective Sandra Nava said, detectives questioned Barker on March 19, for roughly 90 minutes. When they returned after taking a short break, they repeatedly warned her that an autopsy would reveal the true cause of death, Stacey claimed Emma choked herself on a sandwich baggie, she found in a purse. Barker turned around and found Emma slumped "down with a baggie in her mouth," adding that Barker continued to drive.
Det. Nava said, Barker continued to changed her story. "It wasn't that we didn't believe her, it was that she was beginning to tell what had happened." She also told the detectives that the toddler's blanket had gotten caught on the back of her car seat during a game of peek-a-boo, suffocating her. If all this wasn't damning enough, Det Nava stated Barker said the reason she did this was to prevent Emma from repeating her own mistakes of getting pregnant young, before marriage then being stuck at her parents house unable to have her own life.
Eventually this version of Stacey's story came out; again after she is repeatedly warned, that the autopsy will show the real truth. Stacey told the the detectives she was aware of the baggie in Emma's mouth - when she used Emma's blanket to play peek a boo; she put her hand over Emma's mouth and nose and held it there for 2 to 3 minutes. Emma struggled trying to get Stacey's hand off her face - pulling at her arm, first with one hand, then pulling at her arm with both hands - until Emma's little hands drop to her sides. Stacey said she removed the blanket and Emma's head was slumped to the side and the baggie was still in her mouth. She drove for 45 mins with Emma in her car seat, with the baggie still in her mouth. Then taking the Roxford exit, Barker left Emma in tall weeds along side the freeway, after removing the baggie from Emma's mouth. She threw the baggie out the window - 15 minutes from where she left Emma. Then driving to the Park N Ride she faked the rest.
Barkers Public Defender, Roberto F. Dager asked Judge Carlos Chung, to dismiss all three counts, stating her non-existent priors of child abuse and what he called "a lack of malice" - where the evidence "points to an accident." Judge Chung disagreed - Saying "I think there is more than enough evidence," Chung denied the request, along with Dager's plea to release Barker from jail on her own recognizance.
On August 12, Stacey Barker entered her formal plea of not guilty on all counts. Since that time the court hearings have mostly been about legal proceeding and getting ready for trial. That information is available here at NP - since Emma's Angels sit in Judge Zacky's court room through every hearing, then KatFish...Ponders shares that information with us:
At the latest hearing, on March 10, Judge Hayden Zackey announced, due to budget constraints the trial may not stay in his courtroom. Those following the case, all feel like Judge Zacky has done an excellent job, thus far. While it is his job to insure Stacey Barker is treated fairly, it is also his job to to see to it that Emma Barker has her day. We have all been grateful, watching and listening as he appeared to bring the right balance into the mix.
Moments later, after a brief conference with Deputy DA Kelly Cromer - PD Dager requested another hearing for March 22; stating; "We are going to put an offer on the table." Currently Barker is facing a maximum of 25 to life.
It has been a year - 365 days, since a precious baby girl was taken from the family who loves her, dearly. Her daddy and grammy's and grandpa's and uncles have to (somehow) get up every day. And pretend they are involved in the world around them. While I'm pretty sure they would rather just turn over and go back to sleep. There at least they can dream about the sunshine missing from their life.
Light a Candle for Emma (use the group ELB if the link appears broken)
None of use pretends to know what was in Stacy's mind that day; what would let her do the unthinkable. But somethings can't be undone and those things come with a big debt. Not only to society, but to the victim. Please remember, there is a tiny Angel whose chances were all taken away from her that day. Possibly on a whim, possibly without a lot of thought, but seriously, why does that matter? The outcome is the same.
A beautiful child who will never go to kindergarten, ride a bike, go to prom, kiss a boy, graduate from college, get married or have a baby of her own and watch her grandpa, while he holds her in his arms, as they dance and dip, eye to eye - all for the price of a smile.
Emma Leigh Barker - You were born an angel and an angel you will always be.
As strange as it seems to say something good came out of this. Over a desire to see justice for Emma, friendships have been forged, it's hard to believe it's only been a year.
~ Syn, Tori, Tam, Tiff, Kat, BBB, A7X ~ Thank you for caring about what happened to Emma ~
Most Recommended Comment
Winnetka, California, United States