NewsCovering Louisiana


Jurors from outside parish to hear baby burning death case

Posted at 11:01 AM, Nov 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-11 12:01:52-05

NATCHITOCHES, La. (AP) - Jurors will be brought in from another parish for the trial of a Louisiana mother charged with first-degree murder in the July 2018 burning death of her 6-month-old son.

Hanna Nicole Barker will still be tried in Natchitoches, the Alexandria Town Talk reported. Barker is accused of asking her girlfriend Felicia Marie-Nicole Smith to kill her son Levi Cole Ellerbe.

Barker's attorney Dru Thompson and Natchitoches Parish District Attorney Billy Joe Harrington agreed Thursday to the use of outside jurors.

Smith also is charged with first-degree murder after allegedly putting the infant in a roadside ditch, dousing him with gasoline and setting him on fire. Barker had told police that two men knocked on her travel trailer door, sprayed a substance in her face and kidnapped her son.

Ellerbe was found with third- and second-degree burns covering 90% of his body. He died a day later.

Louisiana has said it's seeking the death penalty for Barker. Her trial date will be set once it's determined from where the jurors will be selected.

It's unclear when Smith will head to trial. A hearing in her case is scheduled for Tuesday.

Tensions rose at Thursday's hearing, according to the newspaper. Members of Barker's family and relatives of Billy Dean Ellerbe Jr., Levi's father, both attended. A woman from Barker's family handed a notebook and pen across the aisle to a member of the Ellerbe family. The woman received puzzled looks and the notebook was handed back.

A woman with the Ellerbe family stood up, sat back down, then said, "I think we've bent over backwards trying to be nice."

Barker later walked into the courtroom and turned and smiled at her family, but the bailiff stopped the contact. After leaving the room to speak to her attorney, Barker returned and mouthed "I love you" to her family.