The Barker Family story continues. Click here to read Chapter 5.
Three in the Chest
According to newspaper reportings, Richard Barker was involved in an attempted robbery and hostage situation at his residence in 1984, which resulted in the death of an intruder. Three subjects, at least one armed, entered Barker’s rental home on Rustic Road in rural western Palm Beach County. The first subject entered the residence and met with Barker and his wife in their living room. The first subject then let the two other men into the house. The subjects stated that they were going to hold his wife hostage until Barker paid $5,000 for her release. The armed subject had been reportedly attempting to collect the money for a month from Barker.
During the incident, Barker’s wife reportedly threw a glass of wine into the face of the armed intruder. Richard Barker then grabbed a 45-caliber firearm from a desk drawer in his bedroom and shot the armed intruder three times in the chest. During the shooting, the two other intruders broke through rear windows of the residence and hurriedly fled the scene in their vehicle. The armed intruder, later identified as Joseph F. Nichols, died at the scene.
No charges were filed against the Barkers at the time pending the case presentation to a grand jury. A month later, the Palm Beach County grand jury voted to not file charges against Barker for the shooting of Nichols. Law enforcement did not discuss the motive of the intruders or reason for the debt. The incident and its media coverage appeared rather cryptic, indicating that the debt may have been associated with illegal activities involving Barker and the intruders. It would be a fair assumption with the background of the Barker Family and their questionable associates.
Guns and Ludes in Jersey
Richard Barker was arrested with three other men in Clifton, New Jersey the next year in 1985 for drug and firearms violations. Barker and the other suspects were located in a motel room with firearms, marijuana, methaqualone (Quaaludes), and cash during an interstate drug deal. Between the motel room and a suspect vehicle outside, 12,000 Quaaludes, three pounds of marijuana, and three pistols were seized by the police. The four were formally referred to a grand jury two weeks later for drug and weapons charges. Since one of the firearms had its serial number removed, state and federal agencies were contacted to inspect and trace the firearms. The final disposition of the charges was unknown.
According to New Jersey police, Richard Barker and Philip Ross Carter were from Fort Pierce, Florida and both were awaiting sentencing for previous narcotic violations. Carter had been arrested in 1984 by the Escambia Sheriff’s Office (Florida) for trafficking in cocaine, possession of cocaine, carrying a concealed weapon, use of a firearm during a felony, fraudulent identification, and other state charges. He was convicted of the charges in 1988. Carter did not receive a long prison sentence for these crimes possibly due to his cooperation with law enforcement (as discussed later in this story).
Carters’ Florida criminal history was not limited to the 1984 charges. Carter was first arrested in 1969 for fleeing from the police and traffic violations. He was arrested in 1972 for the possession of marijuana and, in 1982, grand theft and fraud. Carter was arrested for making a false report in 1984 and failure to appear in 1985. He was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in 1992 and for grand theft in 1993. He was later arrested for conspiracy to commit murder-first degree in 2003 in the Florida Keys. He received a 20-month sentence for the attempted murder charge and was quickly released from custody in 2004.
Carter was the owner of a 1968 Bertram 25-foot motor vessel that was seized and forfeited in 1983 by the Palm Beach Police Department for a criminal violation. His criminal history does not reflect an arrest during that time period, so it may have been used by another during criminal activity, resulting in its seizure.
The Unknown History
The majority of the previously listed activities, interdictions, arrests, and prosecutions were not well-known to many of the investigators and prosecutors who were chasing the Barker Family in the 1990s, especially the cases outside of Florida. Criminal histories and law enforcement records in the 1970s and 1980s were not as automated or technically advanced as today and the dots did not always line up. Fingerprint cards were manual and had to be physically mailed to central state and federal locations for inspection, processing, and entry. Unfortunately, not all arrests around the country were documented or properly submitted for the national criminal history records.
Investigators often rotated in and out of narcotics units and regional offices, which also limited corporate knowledge of the family and their associates. This continual rotation most likely benefited the smugglers due to missing or disparate information. As it turned out, the Barker Family was even more skilled and accomplished in the art of drug smuggling and distribution than even alleged by law enforcement and their confidential informants. They were worthy adversaries.
Continued Close Encounters
As the decade turned, members of the Barker Family continued to be encountered or arrested by law enforcement for various violations. Angela Dee Sizemore, Richard Barker’s common-law wife, was arrested in 1988 for possession of cocaine and marijuana by the St. Lucie Sheriff’s Office. Her criminal history record does not document the disposition of the two charges.
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) identified Richard Barker during a routine boarding of his motor vessel off the coast of Palm Beach County in 1990. During the inspection and records check, an active arrest warrant was confirmed, resulting in Barker being turned over to the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) for processing and clearing the warrant out of the national database. The arrest warrant was apparently for an unidentified jurisdiction outside of Palm Beach County for unspecified charges.
Richard Barker, Ronald Barker and Angela Sizemore were encountered by USCG again in 1992 when they were on a motor vessel that ran out of gas at sea off of Florida’s coast. While being escorted back through the Palm Beach Inlet by USCG, PBSO also provided assistance to the Barker boat. The Barkers stated that they had run out of fuel while fishing off the coastline. When PBSO attempted to confirm their questionable and changing story regarding which marina they departed from and when, it became obvious that they were not fishing. The four fishing rods on the motor vessel were not functional and other observations did not add up.
PBSO deputies received consent to search the motor vessel. An airline ticket was located for travel to the Bahamas by Ronald Barker a few days before the boarding. With the location of the airline ticket and conflicting statements, the Barkers changed their story for a third time that they were traveling from the Bahamas. A small amount of cocaine was located in Richard Barker’s baggage, which resulted in his arrest. A law enforcement database query located an active arrest warrant for Sizemore.
USCS special agents were called to the USCG station to search and clear the passengers and motor vessel. Richard Barker eventually admitted traveling to the Bahamas to pick up his brother. The return trip may have been an aborted drug smuggling venture with the contraband thrown overboard upon the sighting of USCG. The motor vessel was diligently searched for any additional contraband with negative results. PBSO transported Richard Barker and Sizemore to the county jail for processing and detained the boat until the confirmation of the legal owner.
After numerous attempts, PBSO was able to locate Perry G. McCann, the registered owner of the motor vessel. McCann stated that he had loaned the boat to a person named Richard, but did not know his last name. He also stated that he did not know the other two passengers found on his boat during the USCG boarding. McCann did not remember the exact day that he loaned the boat for a test drive and possible sale. He inspected and inventoried the boat before receiving custody of it.
Due to asset forfeiture laws, many smugglers rented or borrowed motor vessels from third parties to commit their criminal activities. If a borrowed boat were to be seized during a crime, the ever-surprised third-party owner would claim innocence and retrieve the property from law enforcement detention. The greatest expense to the third-party owner would possibly only be the boat storage fees paid and their personal time lost. This was a well-recognized practice documented through numerous seizures, interviews, and investigations. The third party makes money for the short-term rental and the smuggling organization has access to fresh and clean motor vessels at will to match their smuggling needs. These third-party motor vessels are not the subject of lookout records and area broadcasts for the focus of limited law enforcement resources. This may have been the scenario with the 1992 McCann motor-vessel incident.
Perry McCann would tell the Boynton Beach Police Department in 1993 that Richard Barker borrowed a go-fast boat from him and did not return it. McCann had been storing the missing motor vessel on the canal at Barker’s rental residence in Boynton Beach. He would also be quoted in a 1994 newspaper article regarding a future Richard Barker alien smuggling arrest, bragging that Barker could cross the ocean from the Bahamas to Florida without a compass by his celestial navigation skills. He appeared to have an ongoing relationship with the Barkers and likely knew Richard’s last name. McCann would later be arrested in 1996 as part of a conspiracy to smuggle and distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana to Florida from Mexico.
For the 1992 cocaine possession felony charge, Richard Barker received adjudication withheld and one year of state probation. It was a very small amount, but he caught another break. Barker’s name continued to appear in many narcotic smuggling intelligence reports and investigations.
In the next chapter, read more about the Barker Family’s drug and alien smuggling ventures.
Robert C. Hutchinson
Robert C. Hutchinson was a former police chief and deputy special agent in charge with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Homeland Security Investigations in Miami, Florida. He retired in 2016 after more than 28 years as a special agent with DHS and the legacy U.S. Customs Service. He was previously the deputy director of the agency’s national emergency preparedness division and assistant director for its national firearms and tactical training division. His numerous writings and presentations often address the critical need for cooperation, coordination, and collaboration between public health, emergency management, and law enforcement, especially in the area of pandemic preparedness. He received his graduate degrees at the University of Delaware in public administration and Naval Postgraduate School in homeland security studies. He is a long-time contributor to Domestic Preparedness and serves on the Advisory Board.