A mother who authorities say instructed her girlfriend to douse her baby in gasoline and burn him to death is now at risk of being executed, following a filing from state prosecutors.
The State of Louisiana announced last week they will pursue the death penalty against Hanna Nicole Barker, 23, if she’s found guilty of murdering her six-month-old son Levi Cole Ellerbe, in July 2018.
They say she instructed her girlfriend at the time, Felicia Marie-Nicole Smith, 26, to kill her son on her behalf.
Barker initially claimed to authorities that Levi was kidnapped by two people who knocked on the door of her Natchitoches home in Louisiana, pepper-sprayed her in the eyes and then ran off.
She dialed 911 and told an operator that her son had been taken, but within 90 minutes police were alerted to a fire at a nearby railway, where they found the baby’s severely burned body.
Investigators believe Smith took Levi to the rail road at Barker’s request, poured gasoline over him and set him alight, before going to work her shift at a nearby IHOP restaurant.
Levi was rushed to hospital in a critical condition but later succumbed to his profound injuries. He’d suffered second and third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body.
Smith was arrested four days later and charged with first-degree murder. Barker was arrested in the days that followed and issued the same charges.
During a preliminary examination hearing in September 2018, a Fire Marshall told the judge that Barker and Smith were in a romantic relationship, though Smith was more interested in pursuing a courtship than the mother.
Barker apparently told officials that she was only with Smith for attention and money, and admitted to instructing her to kill Levi.
However her attorneys say there’s no way for prosecutors to prove the allegation, calling them false.
Barker was on probation for drug offenses at the time, and is said to have breach the terms of her agreement by having Smith stay inside her home.
Smith is scheduled to have a preliminary exam hearing on August 23. Typically, such hearings happen before the defendant is indicted as their purpose is to determine if there’s enough evidence to proceed with the case, the Alexandria Town Talk reported.
However, in granting the motion for the hearing, Judge Desiree Dyess said Smith didn’t have an attorney appointed for her until after her August 2018 indictment.
Barker’s hearing occurred in September 2018 and she was indicted the following month.
The mother’s trial has tentatively been set for January 13, 2020.
Following her eventual arraignment, prosecutors will also likely pursue the death penalty against Smith as well.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Luke Kenton