Felicia Marie-Nicole Smith pleads guilty


By Carolyn Roy, News Editor

Felicia Marie-Nicole Smith appeared calm and unaffected in district court Wednesday afternoon when she pleaded guilty to charges related to her part in the death of Levi Cole Ellerbe, a 6-month-old baby who was burned to death in July of 2018.

Judge Desiree Dyess accepted Smith’s guilty pleas that will result in her getting 80 years at hard labor without benefit of appeal, probation or suspension of sentence.

Smith pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter with a sentence of 40 years; one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder with a sentence of 30 years; and one count of cruelty to a juvenile under the age of 8 with a sentence of 10 years.

Prosecuting Attorney Cliff Strider described the relationship between Smith and Levi’s mother, Hannah Barker, as romantic and friendly. He said Barker wanted the child dead and Barker and Smith established the plan that led to Levi’s death.  Smith said “yes” when asked by Dyess if she agreed with Strider’s statements.

Baby Levi was 6 months and 17 days old when he was set on fire in a ditch on Breda Avenue. The fire department found the baby that died the next day from second and third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body. Smith is believed to be the one who put Levi in the ditch and set him on fire.

Attorneys for Smith and the District Attorney’s office spent most of Wednesday afternoon working out the plea agreement.

Wearing a plaid flannel shirt and black pants, Smith rocked from side-to-side as Dyess questioned her for over 30 minutes to insure she understood what she was pleading to and was aware of the consequences to pleading guilty. “I understand everything I’m doing,” Smith said. The plea agreement also means that Smith agreed to testify against the baby’s mother, Hannah Barker. Brown and Christine Lehman represented Smith.

Smith, 28, agreed that she had no learning disabilities, was not mentally ill, had no defects or diseases and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohols. She completed the eighth grade and said she could read and write. She also understood that the guilty plea meant the death penalty and all pending motions were withdrawn.

District Attorney Billy Joe Harrington said there had been extensive meetings with the baby’s paternal relatives who supported the sentences and plea. They chose to make victim impact statements at the sentencing Oct. 27 at 1 p.m.

Barker will be tried in St. Landry Parish in September.