Local News

Lancaster Mom Sentenced in Death of Toddler, Emma Leigh Barker

emma-2LANCASTER, Calif. — A woman convicted of murdering her 18-month-old daughter and dumping her body near a freeway has been sentenced to 25-years to life in prison.

Stacey Barker, 26, was convicted May 25 of one count of first degree murder, assault on a child and child abuse.

Barker initially told deputies her daughter Emma was abducted from her car in the parking lot of Lancaster City Park on March 18, 2009

She claimed she was knocked out by the kidnapper and woke up several miles away at the Palmdale Park-n-Ride.

The incident triggered a 12-hour manhunt for the missing child.

Barker later admitted making up the abduction story.

She said the little girl died accidentally, causing her to panic and leave the girl’s body near the freeway.

The child’s body was found 12 hours later, dumped in a grassy lot near the Golden State Freeway in Sylmar.

Coroner’s officials say Emma died of suffocation.

According to prosecutors the girl’s death was consistent with suffocation caused by a hand being placed over her month and nose.

Prosecutors say Emma had been dead for several hours before being dumped.

Barker’s father told KTLA back in March that Barker lived at home with her parents and younger brother who all took turns taking care of the family’s first and only grandchild.

Gary Barker said his wife worked at night so they wouldn’t have to send Emma to day care, while his son watched Emma during the morning so other family members could rest.

Barker would not comment on what led to his granddaughter’s death.

He said there were no words to express how the family is dealing with the news as they prepare for the toddler’s funeral.

He described Emma as a “beautiful, happy girl” who smiled from the time she got up to when she went to bed.

“You lose it, you get it together, you lose it, you get it together,” he told reporters.

“She was so young and it’s such an unnatural tragedy.”

Barker said there are constant reminders of Emma around the house that surface at the most unexpected moments.

The TV menu cataloged the last movies they watched together. Emma especially loved “Bee Movie” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” he said.

He said he last saw Emma the night before the alleged abduction when he got home from work just before his granddaughter’s bedtime.

His voice choked with emotion as he recalled the memory.

“I was holding her in the family room and I was dancing with her and slowly dipping her,” he said.

“She was laughing and smiling and we were looking at each other eye to eye. After that it was bedtime and Stacey gave her a bottle and put her to bed.”

Emma’s funeral drew hundreds of family and friends to Palmdale’s Desert Lawn Memorial Park, where the toddler was eulogized as “a princess and a little girl who always had a smile on her face.”

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