ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A lawyer for a soldier accused of killing his then-14-year-old girlfriend's mother after she objected to their age difference told a jury on Tuesday only the girlfriend is to blame.
"Jamie Silvonek wanted her mother dead," attorney Richard Webster said as 22-year-old Army Spc. Caleb Barnes' murder trial got underway. "She killed her own mother."
But prosecutors contend it was Barnes, who's from El Paso, Texas, who wielded the knife when Cheryl Silvonek was fatally stabbed in March 2015.
Jamie Silvonek, who's now 15, has pleaded guilty and is serving 35 years to life in prison. She has agreed to testify against Barnes, who was 20 or 21 at the time.
During her plea deal hearing in February she called herself "a monster" and said she realizes she deserves no sympathy.
Webster told jurors there isn't any physical evidence that proves Barnes killed Cheryl Silvonek, but he did concede that his client helped bury her body. He called Jamie Silvonek a "liar" and a "manipulator."
Investigators have said they recovered deleted text messages between Jamie Silvonek and Barnes in which she was plotting her mother's killing, including one that read: "I want her gone."
Cheryl Silvonek found out about their relationship in early March 2015 and ordered them to end it, according to court documents. A day later, the teenager told Barnes she wanted her parents dead, the documents said.
On March 14, 2015, Cheryl Silvonek learned that Barnes, who was based at Fort Meade in Maryland but was off duty at the time, intended to take her daughter to a concert in Scranton.
"He is not coming to this house," Cheryl Silvonek texted to her daughter, who had taken the SAT college entrance exam that morning, according to a police affidavit.
The teenager then texted Barnes, "She threatened to throw me out of the house. I want her gone," the affidavit said. Later, she wrote to him, "Just do it," authorities said.
Cheryl Silvonek agreed to drive her daughter and Barnes to the show. Prosecutors said it was her "last ditch effort" to get them to end the relationship. On their way, the teenager and her boyfriend continued texting each other.
"I love you. We can do this. We'll just drive her car then, right?" Jamie Silvonek wrote, the affidavit said.
Barnes replied in a text, "No. That leaves us as the suspects."
Cheryl Silvonek, 54, was fatally stabbed in the driveway of her Upper Macungie Township home early on March 15, 2015, hours after taking her eighth-grader daughter and the daughter's boyfriend to the concert, court documents say.
Police found her body in a shallow grave a few miles from the family's home. Her blood-soaked car was nearby.
Cheryl Silvonek's husband and Jamie Silvonek's father, David Silvonek, has blamed his wife's killing on Barnes.
"It's a horror story for me," he told The Morning Call newspaper. "I love my daughter unconditionally. She was led astray by a predator."