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Mother allegedly suffocated child hours before reporting her missing

April 27, 2009 |  2:42 pm

An Antelope Valley mother who claimed that an attacker knocked her out and abducted her 18-month-old daughter had allegedly suffocated the girl hours earlier and dumped her body in Sylmar, homicide detectives said today.

Stacey Barker, 24, was charged with one count each of murder, assault on a child causing death, and child abuse in the death of Emma Leigh Barker, authorities said.

“At this point, as best as we can determine, the infant died through suffocation at hands of the mother,” said Sheriff's Lt. Pat Nelson. “After her third or fourth version of events, we knew she wasn’t telling the truth, and we able to determine what happened. At this point, we believe she acted alone.”

Detectives arrested Barker last Thursday because of“ indications she might flee or disappear,” Nelson said. Barker had been staying with relatives since the March 18 disappearance of her daughter and discovery of the child’s body in deep brush along a fence.

Detectives believe that the girl was already dead of suffocation four or five hours before Stacey Barker reached out to authorities to report the child missing.

“Our belief is the child died in the early evening of March 18,” Nelson said.

Barker initially told detectives that she was at a Lancaster park near the 14 Freeway and had just placed Emma in her car seat when she was struck from behind by an unknown assailant. She told them she awoke about 10:30 p.m., five hours later at a Palmdale park-and-ride lot several miles away, and that her daughter was missing.

But the next day, Barker recanted the tale of assault and abduction that had launched a massive manhunt, Nelson said. She eventually helped sheriff's detectives find the girl's body and told them her daughter had died in an accident. Detectives then discovered the toddler's body by the side of a road in Sylmar, near Interstate 5.

Prosecutors allege Barker willfully caused and permitted her daughter to be harmed and that the injury resulted in death. Barker, of Quartz Hill, was arrested last week at her grandparents' home in Lancaster and was being held in lieu of $1-million bail. 

 -- Richard Winton