A former Edwardsville police officer pleaded guilty Monday to six felony counts, more than two years after he was charged with a 15-year string of burglaries.
Brian Barker, 43, was arrested in December 2014 and charged with a long string of burglaries of homes and businesses going back 15 years — some of which he committed on duty and in uniform. He was caught on camera cleaning out the cash register of an Edwardsville hair salon and evidence found in his home linked him to a number of other burglaries, according to Madison County prosecutors.
Among Barker’s 22 charges were allegations about stolen firearms and arson, relating to the burglary-arson of State Rep. Dwight Kay’s offices in Edwardsville. In all, he was charged with 11 counts of burglary, residential burglary, one count of possession of stolen firearms, arson, and official misconduct.
Under his plea bargain, Barker pleaded guilty to six charges: three charges of burglary and one each of official misconduct, aggravated possession of stolen firearms and residential burglary. In return for the plea, the other charges will be dropped and Barker will negotiate with the state’s attorney’s office for restitution to the victims, according to Barker’s attorney, William Lucco.
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However, Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said the other charges can be discussed at the sentencing, and they will negotiate restitution for all the victims, not just those of the charges to which Barker pleaded guilty.
Barker’s plea caps his potential sentence at no more than 40 years. The sentence will be passed at a later date, Lucco said.
At least a dozen police officers gathered to watch Barker plead guilty Monday. Barker resigned from the Edwardsville Police Department shortly after his indictment. He spoke quietly during the plea, and did not expound beyond answering questions from Madison County Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli.
While he had accumulated a sizable pension over 19 years as a police officer, Gibbons said Barker will not receive his pension; his money and pension will be held in escrow as the state’s attorney’s office figures out how to divide it for reimbursement to his victims. Gibbons said Barker is also cooperating with investigators on unsolved burglary cases to determine which, if any, might be his responsibility as well.
Among the businesses named in the indictments were Afsaneh’s Alterations, Edible Arrangements, Edison’s Entertainment, Headstrong Hair, the Little Gym, Pedego and Extreme Vapor.
Gibbons said the case has been ready for prosecution for some time, but that Barker, through his attorney, kept filing for postponements. Gibbons has maintained that he would not accept a plea that included less than 20 years in prison for Barker, who he said was apparently trying for a deal that did not include incarceration.
It was also a difficult case to investigate, Gibbons said; more than 5,000 pieces of evidence were confiscated and cataloged by the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, and some have yet to be identified. “We are working with the victims, trying to identify other cases for which he was responsible and has not been charged,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons said they will ask for the full 40-year sentence; Barker would have to serve at least half the sentence on some of the charges, but up to 85 percent on the others. But the main focus, he said, is now on getting restitution for the victims.
Edwardsville Police Chief Jay Keeven was present at the hearing, and said the department was “satisfied with the outcome.” Upon discovering that the main suspect was one of their own, Keeven had turned the case over to Madison County Sheriff John Lakin for investigation.
“We are happy to see justice served,” Keeven said. “We were comfortable from the beginning that (Lakin) would do a fair investigation. ... We are naturally heartbroken that it occurred, but happy with this outcome, and that it saves the taxpayers the cost of the numerous trials it would have required.”
Keeven said it does not matter where a person works; all are subject to the same laws. “When it’s a public official, it’s even more egregious because we are entrusted with enforcing the law,” he said.
The atmosphere among the Edwardsville police officers is improved, Keeven said, “better than it was when he was first arrested.” He said the public sent a “continual stream” of support from the beginning.
“For the most part we have seen tremendous support from our community,” he said. “But we are ready for it to be over.”
Barker was engaged to dispatcher Keri Knight at the time, whom he later married. Keri Knight Barker was convicted of two felony counts of obstruction of justice in July 2015 and sentenced to two years’ probation. The couple now have a young child. Knight Barker was accused of hiding evidence when police came to search the home. She was present in the courtroom during Barker’s plea.
Barker’s sister was Deanna Howland, who was last seen in 2004, not long before her body was found at a Missouri rest stop without its head, hands or legs. Family friends have said Barker was searching for his sister for many years, but her body was not identified until March 2016, when police announced the remains had been identified. The search for her killer continues.