Soldier Caleb Barnes Convicted of Murdering 14-Year-Old Girlfriend's Mother Who Disapproved of Relationship
The case gained notoriety after damning texts were uncovered
Caleb Barnes, the 22-year-old soldier accused of fatally stabbing his then 14-year-old girlfriend’s mother because she disapproved of their relationship, was convicted of first degree murder on Friday, PEOPLE confirms.
Barnes was also found guilty of abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence, Lehigh County court officials tell PEOPLE. He had pleaded not guilty prior to the trial.
On March 15, 2015, Cheryl Silvonek, 54, was found dead with multiple stab wounds to her head, neck and torso. Silvonek’s daughter, Jamie, then 14-years-old, and her then-21-year-old boyfriend, Caleb Barnes were charged with murder.
The case made headlines when it was revealed the day before her mother’s death, Jamie Silvonek had sent Barnes a series of damning texts. In one, Silvonek, wrote, “She needs to go,” and “I want her gone.” Silvonek, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in February and agreed to testify against Barnes, and was sentenced to 35 years to life.
Both Silvonek and Barnes testified in court on Friday. However their versions of events leading up to Cheryl Silvonek’s death diverged: Barnes claimed Silvonek killed her mother after confessing to her she was pregnant with Barnes’ child, while Silvonek testified Barnes strangled and stabbed Cheryl from the back seat of her car after she picked the couple up from a concert, according to the The Morning Call.
“He started to strangle her and then, eventually, he stabbed her,” Silvonek said.
Barnes claimed he was never in Silvonek’s car and instead was sleeping in his own car when his girlfriend woke him up with “blood on her hands and face,” the paper reports.
Prosecutor Jeff Dimmig tells PEOPLE Barnes’s testimony did not fool anyone.
“I don’t think his account was credible and I don’t think the jury found it credible either,” Dimmig says. “Barnes’s testimony involved a cover up [while Silvonek] accepted her responsibility.”
During his testimony, Barnes tried to explain that the troubling text messages between he and his girlfriend were in jest.
“I thought she was joking. I hope she was joking. You don’t want to believe that someone you love is capable of that,” he said, according to reports.
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During his closing statement, Dimmig argued that Barnes had killed his girlfriend’s mother because she had thrown him out of their house and threatened to report him to police for having a sexual relationship with an underage girl. Richard Webster, Barnes’s attorney, told the jury that Barnes’s DNA was never found on the victim’s hands, despite defensive wounds found by the medical examiner, according to reports.
Court officials tell PEOPLE the jury of four men and eight women deliberated for four hours.
While the case is now closed, Dimmig says the community is still trying to process what happened, saying, “It’s a very troubling case.”
Silvonek is serving her sentence at the state correctional facility in Muncy. Barnes faces a possible life sentence at his sentencing hearing beginning September 19.
Barnes’ attorney, Richard Webster, did not return calls for comment.