A Louisiana woman accused of orchestrating a murder that left her infant son dead will face the death penalty if she’s found guilty.
According to Town Talk, the state of Louisiana intends to seek death against Hanna Nicole Barker in connection with the 2018 murder of her 6-month-old son, Levi Cole Ellerbe. Barker, who pleaded not guilty to first-degree charges, initially claimed her baby was kidnapped by strangers.
Prosecutors alleged her story was a complete fabrication, made up after Barker told her former girlfriend, Felicia Marie-Nicole Smith, to kill the boy.
Prosecutors also said they’re seeking the death penalty due to extenuating circumstances of the case after Barker allegedly “engaged in the perpetration and attempted perpetration of cruelty to juveniles and second-degree cruelty to juveniles.”
As CrimeOnline previously reported, On July 17, 2018, Barker claimed two unknown men knocked on her door at around 9 p.m. and sprayed her in the face with what she thought was mace, according to prosecutors.
In a reported panic, Barker said she ran away, leaving Levi inside the residence. She stated she thought the attackers were after her and not the baby, although she claimed she had never seen the men before, police said.
The descriptions of the two reported men were never released.
Shortly after the baby was reported missing, law enforcement agencies, including Natchitoches PD, Louisiana State Police, Northwestern State University Police Department, and the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office began searching the area for the Levi.
Authorities discovered the baby with severe burns on his body a little after 10:20 p.m. on July 17, close to railroad tracks near Breda Avenue in Natchitoches, a few blocks from his home.
First responders rushed Levi to a local medical center. He was later airlifted to University Health in Shreveport, where he died on July 18. According to the Region 5 supervisor of the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, Lt. Jeremy Swisher, the boy had burns on over 90% of his body.
Barker was arrested July 25 and charged being a principal to first-degree murder. Three days prior, police arrested Smith on first-degree murder charges. Prosecutors later upgraded Barker’s charge to first-degree murder, according to ABC 3.
Swisher later said during Barker’s preliminary examination hearing that the crime scene at Barker’s home was “staged,” with a back window smashed but not completely broken. He also indicated that authorities traced blood and fingerprints on the window back to Smith. Further, he said no mace was detected inside the home or on Barker’s face.
Swisher also said Barker tried to blame the baby’s father, Billy Ellerbe, but changed her story when it was determined he had a strong alibi. He added that Barker and Smith were in an “intimate, sexual relationship” with each other, although Barker reportedly said she was using her co-defendant for money and attention.
Swisher said plans for the murder began when Barker approached Smith at a local IHOP restaurant in Natchitoches and asked, “if she loved her and if she would do anything for her, even if it meant going to jail.”
Barker then allegedly asked Smith to kill her baby boy. Smith supposedly refused at first but changed her mind shortly after, according to prosecutors.
Smith first tried to shoot Levi, according to Swisher, but the gun jammed. Barker then allegedly ordered her to burn the baby “until he was bones,” which would “get rid of evidence.”
The only possible motive insinuated so far was an alleged comment Barker made in court about how hard it was to be a single parent.
Barker’s attorney argued that the only person with a motive was Smith, who was upset after Barker broke up with her. The defense lawyer also reportedly said Smith claimed Barker was involved in the crime but no evidence exists to back up Smith’s claim.
Swisher said several people who were interviewed called Barker a “compulsive liar,” according to CBS 19, while others said they weren’t surprised that she may be involved with the baby’s death.
Barker’s trial is scheduled to begin in 2020. Prosecutors said Smith will likely also face the death penalty if found guilty. The suspects will be tried separately.
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[Feature Photo: Levi Ellerbe/Facebook]