NATCHITOCHES, La. – Records previously sealed in the cases of two Natchitoches women accused in the burning death of an infant have been re-opened with exceptions.
District Judge Desiree Dyess in January sealed the first-degree murder files of 24-year-old Hanna Barker and 26-year-old Felicia Smith, but agreed to reverse that decision with the exception of records related to discovery responses.
A preliminary examination scheduled Friday morning for Smith was continued without a new date. However, prosecutors and the defense will be back in court on Aug. 23 for a discovery hearing where the defense will seek to obtain information about the evidence against Smith.
Barker and Smith have pleaded not guilty in the July death of Levi Cole Ellerbe, who was Barker’s almost 7-month-old son. She is accused of concocting a story that her son was kidnapped from their home in the Mayberry Trailer Park.
An hour later, the infant’s body was found near the railroad tracks several miles away. He had second- and third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body and died the next day at a Shreveport hospital.
Investigators say it was Smith, who is Barker’s girlfriend, who took Levi, poured gasoline on him and set him on fire. While he was burning, Smith went to work.
Smith confessed, according to court records, and told investigators it was Barker who came up with the plan. Barker has denied any involvement.
The Natchitoches District Attorney’s Office has not made a decision on whether it will seek the death penalty in the cases. In Barker’s case, that will be known by Aug. 1.