NewsCrimeTaking Action Against Domestic Violence


Domestic violence advocate and local attorney help victim's family get justice

Phoebe Barker.jpg
Posted at 2:55 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-07 10:50:21-05

Domestic violence in a home often goes on in secrecy for years. And that's the case of a local woman, who deputies say was murdered at the hands of her husband.

Her children had no idea how bad the abuse had gotten until it was too late.

But now two women, a domestic violence advocate and a local attorney, are both stepping up and giving this family the justice they deserve.

That family includes Karissa and Jason Cook, whose mom, Phoebe Kelly Barker, was unrecognizable when they walked into the ICU several months ago.

Phoebe had been beaten, bruised and burned all over her body.

"Just looking at her, she looked like she was tortured," Karissa said.

By the time they arrived at the hospital, Phoebe was in a coma, suffering from extreme trauma with a massive brain bleed, her organs failing and on life support.

"We had already come to that conclusion that she wasn't going to make it,” Karissa explained.

And she didn't.

The medical examiner determined she died from blows to her head and bleeding in her brain, ruling it a homicide.

“This was absolutely horrifying. I've seen some bad things in my life. And it really broke me that the worst thing I had to see was my mother. There is evil out there,” said Jason.

The state attorney's office charged Phoebe's husband, Anthony Barker, with second-degree murder.

And like many domestic violence cases, the family says the abuse happened behind closed doors, hidden for years.

"We had our suspicions. She never really came out and said anything. But she would just have these bruises and marks and stuff like that," Karissa said.

But the abuse escalated and in November of 2019, Barker was arrested for domestic violence.

So Karissa flew to Tampa, packed up Phoebe and brought her back to Colorado, where they lived.

And that's when Karissa says Phoebe told her about Barker's violent behavior, even on the night they got married.

"He had accused her on her wedding night of cheating on him and hit her in the face and gave her a black eye," Karissa said.

Phoebe's stay in Colorado was brief because her husband begged her to come home, apologizing and promising he'd change.

"I said, 'you go back, he's gonna kill you. He's gonna kill you. They don't get better,'" Karissa recalled.

But Phoebe went back anyway, even though she knew Barker had a history of abuse.

He was arrested for domestic violence in 2006, well before their relationship. And the family says Barker had financial control over Phoebe as well.

"Nothing in the house had her name on it. She was like non-existent," explained Karissa.

So they worried Barker could use Phoebe's money to defend himself in court.

"Our next biggest step is probate to try to work out all of her assets. Also to make sure that he can't use any of those assets to bond out of jail," Karissa said.

But being several states away, they felt helpless and hopeless.

And that's where Julie Weintraub's non-profit organization stepped in to help.

"Emotional and financial abuse is a huge thing that we need to deal with. And obviously, he had taken financial control over her long before." explained Julie Weintraub, who's an advocate and founder of Hands Across The Bay, helping domestic violence victims and their families for many years.

Julie says seeing pictures of any violent abuse always makes her emotional.

"It always brings me to tears, and it never gets easy to see. And I think if I can never look at a picture of a woman, who was beaten to death and not be affected is probably the day I need to hang up my hat doing this work," Julie says, trying to hold back tears.

So knowing that Phoebe's assets needed to be protected, Julie immediately reached out to her community partner, Attorney Rachel Drude-Tamori.

"Obviously, my heart went out to the family and to Phoebe, when I saw the photos. How could it not? And I knew right away, I wanted to help. Also, when Julie Weintraub asks you to do something, it's not if, it's how can I help? And how best can I help?" Rachel Drude-Tamori recalled.

Drude-Tamori specializes in estate planning and probate and immediately sprang into action, asking the court to appoint Karissa as the personal representative of the estate and freezing Phoebe's assets.

"Mr. Barker had nearly full or maybe full 100% control over Phoebe's assets. All of her paychecks went into accounts in his name. She had zero control over her finances," Drude-Tamori explained.

And Drude-Tamori promised Phoebe's family, they will not have to pay anything to get the justice they deserve.

"We're going to be handling this pro bono because it's just the right thing to do. And Julie Weintraub's Hands Across The Bay did provide an initial retainer for court costs," she said.

And the family is so very thankful.

"You know, we already feel a million miles away. And so to have somebody there, on our side, it really feels really great," Karissa said.

And for anyone stuck in an abusive relationship, they beg you to get out, before it's too late.

"The longer somebody is away from an abusive relationship and an abusive person, the more freedom they're going to realize that they gained," Jason said.

"Something that I had posted was 'It's better to walk away from a failed marriage than end up in a coffin,'" Karissa said.

"You should make a plan and you should absolutely leave because if there is any history of violence, punching holes in the wall, especially strangulation, closed fist punching in the face, I am just telling you, he is going to take your life sooner or later. Your life is going to be taken if you don't find a way out," Julie warned.

Anthony Barker's next hearing on second-degree murder charges is scheduled for Tuesday, November 2 at 8:30am.

He remains in jail and has entered a written plea of 'Not Guilty.'