Death Penalty Sought for Mother Implicated in Baby’s Death

August 15, 2019 Updated: August 15, 2019

State prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a Louisiana mother who is accused of ordering the killing of her 6-month-old son.

Hanna Nicole Barker, 23, was arrested on July 25, 2018, eight days after she called police and claimed her son was kidnapped.

Barker said two men pepper-sprayed her when she opened her door to knocks and fled, leaving the boy, Levi, behind.

He was found severely burned in a ditch about 90 minutes later and died the next day.

Prosecutors said in a new filing that the reasons they’re seeking the execution of Barker is because the baby was younger than 12 and Barker was “engaged in the perpetration and attempted perpetration of cruelty to juveniles and second-degree cruelty to juveniles,” according to Alexandria Town Talk, which obtained the document.

The notice also said the burning “was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious and cruel manner.”

According to investigators, Barker ordered another woman, Felicia Marie-Nicole Smith, the kill Levi. An investigator said in court that Barker and Smith were romantically involved.

After Barker was arrested, authorities said in a press release (pdf) that Smith and Barker “were known to each other.”

Smith has also been charged with murder.

Barker’s attorney has said there’s nothing connecting his client to her son’s death.

A preliminary exam hearing in the case is slated for Aug. 23 and the trial is scheduled to start on Jan. 13, 2020.

Barker pleaded not guilty on Dec. 3, 2018. the same day she was sentenced to five years in jail after authorities revoked her probation sentence that she was given in 2016 for drug charges.

Police have released little information about the case publicly. Announcing the arrest, the Natchitoches Police Department stated: “The Natchitoches Police Department and the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office have worked tirelessly together in order to learn the facts behind this Homicide. The two agencies have worked as one since this investigation’s conception through extremely long days and nights with little to no sleep.”

“Due to the extremely rapidly growing nature of this investigation, we must continue to restrict the information that is released. Therefore, NO FURTHER INFORMATION SHALL BE RELEASED AT THIS TIME. Thank you for your cooperation,” the department added.

According to Levi’s obituary, he “was the happiest baby who always had a big smile.”

“He spent his time playing with siblings and cousins especially outdoors, watching PJ Masks and video gaming with Uncle J,” family members wrote.

“He was an animal lover and anytime he could get his hands on his dog, (Rex) he loved to pull his ears. Levi was a blessing to our family and everyone who met him. We will always remember him as our little ‘Chunky Monkey.'”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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