The woman whose body was recently identified as a metro-east missing person was the sister of indicted police officer Brian Barker.
Deanna Howland was born Deanna Barker, and grew up in Collinsville with her brother: Brian Barker, who eventually became an Edwardsville police officer.
But Howland fell into drugs not long after high school, with a string of arrests for minor drug offenses such possession of marijuana. At some point, she was drawn into prostitution as well, though she had only one arrest in Madison County. Family members were estranged from Howland when she disappeared, according to law enforcement.
Howland was last seen in 2004, not long before the remains were found at an Interstate 70 rest stop in Missouri. Her body was found without a head, hands or legs. She was 35 years old at the time.
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Howland’s body was found without a head, hands or legs at a Missouri rest stop in 2004.
Barker, who could not immediately be reached for comment, is currently facing charges of burglary and arson. He is accused of burglarizing businesses and some homes in Edwardsville, sometimes while on duty and in uniform. Family friends have said he continued searching for his sister long before she was formally reported missing.
Edwardsville Police Chief Jay Keeven said there was no formal investigation into Howland’s disappearance within their department, but he was unaware of any of Barker’s off-duty activities. But Major Jeff Connor of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that they first learned of Howland’s disappearance from Barker. Howland was formally reported missing, by her family, in 2015.
When the remains were found, the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis was activated and investigated for several weeks. But little progress was made without identification of the body. DNA samples were preserved, and she was buried in a ceremony funded by the Warren County (Mo.) coroner’s office, whose employees attended the funeral.
In the years since the body was found, the Major Case Squad has been activated a second and third time to re-evaluate the case and process new leads and information. Since that time, the case has been an open cold-case homicide with the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.
Howland had been married three times, and bore at least one child. She had also been known by the last names Froehlich and Kinnear, due to her marriages.
Anyone with any knowledge of Howland or any possible circumstances surrounding her disappearance are encouraged to call the Warren County Sheriff’s Department at 636-456-4332, the Madison County Illinois Sheriff’s Department at 618-692-0871, or the St. Louis Regional Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-866-371-8477.