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Man who abducted Alexandria girl pleads guilty

Thomas Barker

ALEXANDRIA, Minn.—One of the three men charged in connection with the abduction of a 15-year-old Alexandria girl last fall entered a guilty plea Wednesday morning in Douglas County District Court.

Thomas Barker pleaded guilty to kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct in the first degree with a dangerous weapon and criminal sexual conduct in the first degree causing fear of great bodily harm. All are felony-level charges.

The case gained national attention after police say she escaped from three men while being held captive for nearly a month. The girl disappeared from her Alexandria home in August 2017. She was held at a lake home in Grant County about 20 miles west of Alexandria, swimming across part of the lake to escape.

Under the terms of an agreement between the prosecution and Barker's attorney, Barker is expected to be sentenced to 25 years in prison. In addition, he will be subject to a lifetime conditional release period following prison and will have to register as a predatory offender.

Barker's attorney, Justin Braulick, said the plea hearing went as expected.

Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson said he would reserve any comments until after Barker is formally sentenced. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Friday, Oct. 12.

The mother of the victim said she was pleased with the guilty plea from Barker.

"It's been a long road and we just want it over," she said. "We are happy it won't have to go to trial."

The mother said now that Barker pleaded guilty, she hopes it will be easier to move on.

"I told her and she was relieved," the mother said. "She needs to be just a typical teenage girl."

One part of the hearing bothered the mother: When Barker said he didn't know her family. She said that was not true, as her family has known him for years and he has known her daughter since she was a baby.

"That upset me, that he said that under oath and it was a lie," she said. "That was the most frustrating part. But we are happy with the plea and that he will be going to prison."

Barker takes the stand

Barker, who took the stand with the use of a walker, waived his right to a jury trial and pleaded guilty to all three counts. Judge Timothy Churchwell, a asked Barker what the purpose was of taking the girl.

"I don't know. I was under the influence at the time. I was messed up. I was so high on drugs. I was drunk non-stop. That's all I did. Lots of it is a blur," Barker told the judge.

Barker was asked if he thought the girl suffered harm, and he replied, "Not sure. Not to my knowledge."

When Churchwell asked Barker if he had sexual contact with her and if they had sexual intercourse, Barker replied, "Yes."

Barker also admitted that he had a BB gun and it was made visible on purpose.

In his final questions, Churchwell asked Barker if he held the girl against her will, if he prevented her from leaving and if he believed that there was reasonable fear of great bodily harm. Barker responded yes to all of the questions.

Steven Powers, 21, of Mankato, faces charges of kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct and false imprisonment in connection with the case. He does not have any upcoming court dates set.

Joshua Holby, 32, of Carlos, who pleaded not guilty to two counts of kidnapping and false imprisonment on Jan. 11, is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Friday, Sept. 7.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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