Man Arrested in 1998 Slaying of Sondra Better
Todd Barket, now 51, has been arrested in the 1998 cold-case murder of Sondra Better. Better was killed in 1998 at South Federal Highway consignment shop after being bludgeoned and stabbed to death. The case went cold for 20 years. Police suspect Barket had executed a smash and grab when Better got in his way. She was 68 when she died.
This begs the question: If police had enough evidence to convict Barket 20 years ago and had gained no more evidence during that period, why is he being charged now?
Fingerprint Evidence and the Killer’s Blood Left Behind
According to police, the killer left fingerprint evidence behind at the scene. In addition, there was a trail of the killer’s blood leading from one spot to the cash register. However, being a public place, as it was, there would have been a number of fingerprints at the scene. This point was not lost on Robert Stevens who continued to work the case even after he retired from the force.
Stevens had obtained DNA evidence from 36 men whose fingerprints were found at the scene and there was no match to the trail of blood that led to the cash register. The police also had a description of a man who seems to match the description of Barket, but for whatever reason, they were not able to match Barket to the crime. The evidence sat there for two decades and Sondra Better’s murder went unavenged.
According to police, Barket was living in a mobile home in Lantana. In 2004, they say he left Palm Beach County for Tampa. Barket had no prior felonies on his record, a handful of traffic infractions, and one misdemeanor count of writing a bad check. Fingerprints and blood samples the individual cops presume was the killer were uploaded into federal databases but, again, there was no match.
However, this past December, Barket applied for a job as a certified nursing assistant and the prints that he provided got a hit on the national Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). This alerted authorities that one of the unaccounted men who was at the consignment shop had been found. The police showed up with a search warrant for Barket’s home and a swab of his DNA. They matched the DNA from the blood trail leading to the cash register to Barket.
Attacking the DNA Evidence
It would seem fairly damning that Barket’s blood trail lead from one area to the cash register. In truth, it is. Police maintain that Sondra Better fought back leaving a scar on Barket’s face. This scar cannot be seen in drivers licenses prior to 1998 yet is present in those after. His fingerprints don’t provide solid evidence of his involvement in a crime, but his blood does. In order to establish that Barket is the killer, the police will need to show that his blood does indeed lead from a point of injury to the cash register to establish motive.
Barket will face the death penalty if convicted and has been denied bail.
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