State prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty in a case that broke last year during the summer out of Natchitoches, Louisiana.
On July 17th, 2018, police responded to a call placed by Hanna Barker saying that men had taken her child, 6-month old Levi Ellerbe.
The story she told police was that two men had begun banging on the door of her trailer about 9 pm. When she opened the door she says that she was attacked and sprayed in the face with a chemical she believed to be mace. She fled the scene to get away from the attack, leaving Levi behind inside. Upon returning, she discovered him missing and called police.
At 10:20 that night, another call came into police, this one reporting a fire along the railroad tracks. Upon arrival, they found a badly burned Levi, and rushed him in critical condition to the hospital. Several hours later, in the early morning hours of July 18th, he succumbed to his injuries. He had suffered second- and third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body.
Officials involved with the case noted inconsistencies in Barker's statements, and a lieutenant with the State Fire Marshal's Office testified that to him, it appeared as though the scene had been staged.
On July 25th, Barker was arrested and booked on a charge of Principle to First Degree Murder. In an arraignment on December 3, 2018, Barker entered a plea of not guilty. That same day, her parole from a previous drug charge was revoked and she was sentenced to five years in jail.
Barker's attorney has said that there is nothing connecting his client to the death of Levi. Her preliminary exam hearing is scheduled for August 23rd, and her trial date is scheduled for January 13, 20202.
In their notice for intending to pursue the death penalty, prosecutors noted that the act “was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious and cruel manner.”
To prosecutors, it doesn't matter whether Barker herself burned her son or not. During a preliminary examination hearing a Louisiana State Fire Marshal regional supervisor, Lt. Jeremy Swisher, testified Barker had asked Felicia Marie-Nicole Smith to kill the child.
Felicia Marie-Nicole Smith, who was actually arrested four days before Barker, was charged with First Degree Murder. Smith and Barker were not just "known to each other" as the Louisiana police report stated, they were in fact involved in a relationship at the time.
Smith told investigators that there was a recording of them meeting at an IHOP, where she worked, as well as text messages and other recordings to prove that it was Barker that asked her to get rid of Levi.