Prosecutors: No death penalty for man accused of killing wife in Catawba County

Man accused of killing wife in Catawba County, sparking manhunt faces judge

CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — Catawba County prosecutors said they will not seek the death penalty against a man accused of kill his wife in April, sparking a days-long manhunt.

Channel 9 crews were there when Joseph Barker was taken into custody in the woods near Highway 64 in Transylvania County in April.

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Investigators had been searching for Barker since a woman was found shot to death inside a Catawba County home.

“We wanted to keep that pressure on overhead and to keep that pressure on the ground too,” Transylvania County Sheriff David Mahoney said.

According to the sheriff, the woman, identified as 43-year-old Crystal Johnson Barker, was found inside a home along Plateau Road just south of Hickory.

“You’re really not thinking about much at that point except the old training -- all the years of doing this,” Mahoney said. “They just naturally kick in, and you go in and do what you have to do to take them into custody."

Channel 9's Dave Faherty confirmed with deputies Barker did not have a weapon, food or water with him when he was found.

"He did not give himself up," Transylvania County Capt. Jeremy Queen said. "I'm not sure if he might have been getting some rest, sleeping or something to that effect. He was hiding but didn't give himself up."

Channel 9 was there as Catawba County deputies, the State Bureau of Investigation and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol were at the home, canvassing the area for clues.

Officials told Channel 9 the couple's two teenage children were in the house when the crime happened but were not hurt.

Detectives believed Barker was driving a black 1999 Toyota Camry with North Carolina tag CHX-2208.

According to Channel 9's partners, WLOS, Barker wrecked that Camry along Highway 64 in Transylvania County, southwest of Asheville.

Transylvania County authorities told WLOS that a vehicle registered to Barker was involved in a single-car wreck along Old Rosman Highway in Rosman, but that Barker was still at large.

<p>Credit: WLOS</p>

Credit: WLOS

According to officials, Transylvania County schools were placed on a soft lockdown while authorities searched for Barker.

Officials said Barker was captured about a mile away from the crash scene in a heavily wooded area Thursday afternoon.

Channel 9 spoke to several neighbors who said they are in disbelief, especially because there were children in the home.

"They better find him. That's all I can say," neighbor Elizabeth Ray said. "They need to do something to him. Too close to home. I guess that's why I keep my doors locked."

Family members and neighbors said they have no idea of a possible motive behind the shooting, but said their thoughts are with the teenage children who were home when the shooting happened.

"Thoughts and prayers are for all the sons down there and the other son in Texas. Hopefully, they're taken care of in their prayers and everything," neighbor Billy Sutton said.

Residents in the area said they were not taking any chances with a murder suspect on the loose.

"I've got a 12-gauge pump shotgun loaded and ready," Melinda McCall said. "If he comes in my house, he won't make it out."

Channel 9 was there as Barker was loaded into the back of an ambulance after being taken into custody.

“I would like to send a huge thank you to the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service, SBI, NCSHP and all of the agencies involved in the search for Joseph Barker. They all worked tirelessly through the night and day to find Joseph Barker and to bring him to justice," Catawba County Sheriff Don Brown said.

Barker stumbled into the courtroom Friday, keeping his head down as the judge told him he was charged with murdering his wife.

At one point, the judge asked him if he wanted a court-appointed attorney, and he mumbled something no one, including the judge, could hear.

As Barker left the courtroom, deputies grabbed on to him as he appeared to lose his balance.

Channel 9 learned his court appearance was delayed because he refused to put on his clothes.

Records show Crystal Barker took out a domestic violence order against her husband in 2004, but that order was later dismissed.

This is an ongoing investigation. Check back with for updates.