Boyfriend convicted of murder in '99 disappearance of D.C. woman
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
For the seven years that Yolanda Baker and Terrence Barnett dated, Baker's family watched a once loving relationship grow increasingly violent.
Baker would show up at family functions with bruises and bald patches on her head from having her hair pulled out. She took out a restraining order against Barnett but began seeing him again after a little more than a year. Baker also sought child support from Barnett on behalf of their then-5-year-old-twins, a boy and girl.
Then, after the two had seemingly made amends, Baker went missing from her Northeast Washington home Aug. 1, 1999. She has not been seen since. Authorities declared her dead last year and charged Barnett with killing her.
After Baker disappeared, her family members spent years trying to find answers, closure and accountability in the death of the woman they had nicknamed Princess.
On Tuesday, after three days of deliberating, a D.C. Superior Court jury found Barnett, 45, guilty of second-degree murder. He was charged with first-degree murder, but the jury was unable to determine during the three-week trial that there was enough evidence that he planned to kill Baker.
As the jury foreman announced the verdict, Barnett bowed and shook his head slightly. Cold-case detectives sitting in the back row of the courtroom fist-pounded each other and smiled. Members of Baker's family, who filled up three rows of one side of the courtroom, and members of Barnett's family, sitting on the other side, broke into tears.
"All these years, it's over," cried Andrea Flemmings, one of Baker's sisters.
"We are very pleased. Thank God for this justice," said Deon Haynes-Parker, another of Baker's sisters, as family members gathered outside the courtroom. Baker's twins, now teenagers, are being raised by her family.
Baker's brother-in-law Leroy Flemmings said that although his family mourns for Baker, they are also concerned about the twins.
"I'm glad the kids can now have some closure," Flemmings said. "They lost their mom and their dad the moment this happened."
Cold cases are challenging to prosecute, but murder cases in which a body is not found are even more difficult. This was only the fourth case without a body that the District's U.S. attorney's office has tried since the 1980s, officials said.
Lawyers, law students and trial watchers visited the courtroom during the trial to watch Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines square off against criminal defense lawyer Nikki Lotze.