Hannah Barker says she is not guilty of devising and executing a plan July 17 to kill her infant son, Levi Cole Ellerbe. District Attorney Billy Joe Harrington confirmed the plea was entered Monday, Dec. 3 in a Natchitoches courtroom. Barker is represented by Dhu Thompson. Her court date is set for January 2020.
Felicia Nicole Smith, Barker’s girlfriend at the time, was charged with first-degree murder soon after the incident, then Barker was arrested July 25 as a principal to the crime. A grand jury upgraded the charge to first-degree murder. Barker was denied bail in September. Smith, who still does not have an attorney, does not have a court date. A hearing to appoint counsel is set for 1 p.m. Dec. 20.
The bill of indictment states Smith took Levi from his home, abandoned him in a wooded area, poured gasoline on him and set him on fire before leaving for her job at IHOP near I-49. Court officials and investigators remain under a gag order, however details came to light at Barker’s bail hearing. Lt. Jeremy Swisher, the Region 5 supervisor for the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office testified then that Smith said Barker met her at IHOP earlier on the day Levi was taken.
Barker asked Smith if she loved her and if she would do anything for her, even if it meant going to jail, Swisher said. He said Smith said Barker asked her to kill the baby, and Smith initially refused. But she agreed shortly after to do it. Barker told Smith to shoot the infant, who was only days away from turning 7 months old, Swisher testified.
Smith said she couldn’t because her gun was jammed. Swisher said they found a gun, jammed because someone loaded a bullet backwards, at Smith’s home. Barker then told Smith she wanted the baby burned “until he was bones,” Swisher testified. Barker told her that would get rid of evidence, he said. The only potential motive alluded to were comments apparently made by Barker, who talked about the difficulties of being a single mother and jealousy over a prior girlfriend.
Investigators say there was evidence of a staged crime scene. Swisher said Smith implicated Barker as the one spearheading the plan.