Crimes Against Children

Emma Leigh Barker

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Mother charged in killing of 18-month-old daughter

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Emma Leigh Barker's body was found in Sylmar. Authorities think it is likely she was suffocated.

Stacy Barker told authorities she was knocked out and her daughter abducted from a park in Lancaster. The girl had been suffocated hours before Barker contacted authorities, detectives say.

By Richard Winton

April 28, 2009

An Antelope Valley mother who alleged that an attacker knocked her out and abducted her 18-month-old daughter is believed to have suffocated the girl hours earlier and dumped her body in Sylmar, detectives said Monday.


Stacey Barker, 24, was charged with one count each of murder, assault on a child causing death, and child abuse in the death of Emma Leigh Barker, authorities said.



"At this point, as best as we can determine, the infant died through suffocation at the hands of the mother," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. Pat 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."


Detectives arrested Barker last Thursday because of "indications she might flee or disappear," 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.


Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the Los Angeles County coroner's office has yet to determine the cause of death, but based on the information available at this point it is likely the girl suffocated.



Detectives believe that the girl was already dead four or five hours before Stacey Barker contacted authorities to report the child missing and tell of her mysterious abduction.


"Our belief is the child died in the early evening of March 18," Nelson said.


Barker initially told detectives that she was at a Lancaster park near the 14 Freeway and had just placed Emma in her car seat when she was struck from behind by an unknown assailant. She told them that she awoke about 10:30 p.m. five hours later and several miles away at a Palmdale park-and-ride lot, and that her daughter was missing.


But the next day, Barker recanted the tale of assault and abduction that had launched a massive manhunt, Nelson said. She eventually helped sheriff's detectives find her daughter's body and told them she had died in an accident. Detectives then discovered the toddler's body in Sylmar near Interstate 5.


Prosecutors allege that Barker willfully caused and permitted her daughter to be harmed and that the injury resulted in death. Barker, of Quartz Hill, was arrested last week at her grandparents' home in Lancaster.


Barker's arraignment hearing was postponed Monday until May 11. She remains in custody in lieu of $1-million bail.



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