April 30, 2009
LANCASTER -- A mother who initially claimed she was assaulted and her 18- month- old daughter kidnapped is now accused of smothering the child and dumping her body near a freeway.
Stacey Barker, 24, is charged with second degree murder, assault on a child causing death and child abuse, according to the District Attorney's office.
Detectives arrested Barker last Thursday because of "indications she might flee or disappear," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. Pat Nelson said.
Barker had been staying with relatives since the March 18 disappearance of her daughter and discovery of the child's body near Roxford Street and El Dorado Avenue in deep brush along a fence.
Coroner's officials have not yet issued a final report on how the girl died but sheriff's detectives suspect she was suffocated, a Sheriff's Department spokesman said Monday.
"Detectives believe that … based on interviews and the condition of the victim that she likely suffocated," Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
The maximum penalty Barker faces is 25 years to life in prison, Deputy District Attorney Kelly Cromer said.
Barker initially told deputies her daughter Emma was abducted from her car in the parking lot of Lancaster City Park on March 18th.
She claimed she was knocked out by the kidnapper and woke up several miles away at the Palmdale Park-n-Ride.
Barker later admitted making up the abduction story.
She said the little girl died accidentally, causing her to panic and leave the girl's body near the freeway.
The child's body was found 12 hours later, dumped in a grassy lot near the Golden State Freeway in Sylmar.
Sheriff's officials never disclosed what sort of accident Barker said killed her daughter.
Barker was arrested Thursday afternoon and booked at the Lancaster Sheriff's Station on suspicion of second-degree murder, Lt. Don Downton said.
"Within the last several weeks investigators were able to interview several people in the case," Downton said.
Barker's arraignment hearing was postponed Monday until May 11. She remains in custody in lieu of $1-million bail.
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.
Barker's father told KTLA back in March that Barker lived at home with her parents and younger brother who all took turns taking care of the family's first and only grandchild.
Gary Barker said his wife worked at night so they wouldn't have to send Emma to day care, while his son watched Emma during the morning so other family members could rest.
Barker would not comment on what led to his granddaughter's death.
He said there were no words to express how the family is dealing with the news as they prepare 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 reporters.
"She was so young and it's such an unnatural tragedy.''
Barker said there are constant reminders of Emma around the house that surface at the most unexpected moments.
The TV menu cataloged the last movies they watched together. Emma especially loved "Bee Movie'' and "Alvin and the Chipmunks,'' he said.
He said he last saw Emma the night before the alleged abduction when he got home from work just before his granddaughter's bedtime.
His voice choked with emotion as he recalled the memory.
"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.''
Emma's funeral drew hundreds of family and friends to Palmdale's Desert Lawn Memorial Park, where the toddler was eulogized as "a princess and a little girl who always had a smile on her face."
During the service, Barker sat between parents Susan and Gary Barker, holding their hands.
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