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Mother of dead toddler found in Sylmar says she dumped body, authorities say

Stacy Barker recants story that her 18-month-old was abducted during an attack and tells investigators that she panicked after her daughter died in an accident, sheriff's officials say.

March 21, 2009|Richard Winton

The mother of an 18-month-old girl found dead near a San Fernando Valley freeway has recanted her story about the toddler being abducted during an attack and now says she panicked after her daughter died in an accident and dumped the body herself, a sheriff's official said Thursday.

Stacy Barker initially told detectives that she was knocked unconscious by an attacker at a Lancaster park as she was buckling her daughter, Emma Leigh Barker, into her car seat. She told investigators she awoke hours later in a Palmdale parking lot and that her daughter was gone.

Detectives spent most of Wednesday night and Thursday morning looking for the girl. The search ended when police discovered the toddler's body dumped by the side of a road, near the Roxford Street exit of the 5 Freeway in Sylmar.

Detectives said inconsistencies developed in Stacy Barker's story early on. Eventually, the 23-year-old told police that it was she who left the girl's body in the thick brush, authorities said.

To reinforce her initial story of an attack, Barker inflicted wounds to her head, partially disrobed and acted semiconscious when police arrived. She was taken by ambulance to a medical center.

On Friday, coroner's officials conducted an autopsy on the girl's body. Ed Winter, assistant chief coroner, said a determination of the cause of death was deferred pending further tests. Detectives said there were no visible signs of trauma on her body.

Barker was at her parents' home in Lancaster on Friday. The family could not be reached for comment.

"At this point, I would not term her a suspect," Sheriff's Homicide Lt. Pat Nelson told reporters at a news conference Thursday. "That may change as circumstances develop."

Sheriff's homicide detectives are expected to present their findings to prosecutors in the coming week.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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