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Man sentenced to up to 22 years in prison for killing wife in Catawba County

Officials say the defendant had no prior felony record and was sentenced at the presumptive level for his crime.
Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 9:19 PM EDT
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CATAWBA COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A judge has sentenced a man to up to 22 years in prison for the brutal murder and kidnapping of his wife in Catawba County in 2019.

On Monday, The Honorable Judge William T. Pomeroy sentenced 50-year-old Joseph Wayne Barker to an active sentence of 17-22 years for the April 2019 shooting death of his wife, 43-year-old Crystal Johnson Barker, following his guilty plea.

Barker will serve his sentence in custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections. Officials say Barker had no prior felony record and was sentenced at the presumptive level for his crime.

The sentencing comes following his conviction for second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping.

“There is no outcome in court that can bring comfort to those grieving from this tragic incident,” Catawba County Sheriff Don Brown said. “We are otherwise satisfied with this resolution and thank all agencies involved for their efforts to bring Joseph Barker to justice. Our prayers continue to be with the family of Crystal Barker.”

On April 23, 2019, court documents say Barker barricaded his wife inside a bedroom of their home, locking the door and blocking it with his body so their teen sons could not get inside, and made threats against her.

Court documents say she would repeat the threats he made so the boys could hear, and after each threat, he would pass a weapon outside to his children. Court documents go on to say he passed two knives and three guns out of the room before firing a single gunshot from a .22-caliber revolver that struck his wife in the chest and killed her.

The Catawba County Sheriff’s Office STAR Team arrived and found Crystal Barker dead at the home, but Joseph Barker already had fled the scene.

After a two-day manhunt that included the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Marshals, a wrecked vehicle driven by Joseph Barker was found abandoned in Transylvania County, and he was apprehended after being found hiding in a wooded area.

A number of Crystal Barker’s family members were present in the courtroom during Monday’s plea.

Officials say the victim’s family was in support of the arrangement and did not want to have Barker’s sons testify in a trial setting and endure further trauma from having to recall the tragic events of the shooting that claimed the life of their mother.

“She was so sweet and had a gentle spirit,” her mother, Deborah Townley, said. “She loved her children deeply and brought happiness to our family. To her detriment, she loved Joey … It cost her her life. I’m just glad the children are protected now, and this is all over. They’re good boys. I’m just sorry they had to go through this. No child should have to endure this.”

Crystal Barker’s brother, Paul Johnson, also addressed the court, saying, “Our family has not been the same, nor will it ever be the same. You can’t prepare for this kind of thing. It was a senseless waste of life.”

Mike Crisp led the investigation for the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant District Attorney Ben Faulkenberry prosecuted the matter for the State.

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