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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

Friday, September 30, 2016

Virginia Man Sentenced to 20 Years to Life in Prison For 1984 Slaying of Woman in Southeast Washington

DNA Later Linked Him to the Crime

            WASHINGTON – Joe Anthony Barber, 58, formerly of Woodbridge, Va., was sentenced today to a term of 20 years to life in prison for the 1984 slaying of a woman at her apartment in Southeast Washington, announced U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips and Peter Newsham, Interim Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

            Barber was found guilty by a jury in June 2016 of first-degree murder while armed, following a trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He was sentenced by the Honorable Robert E. Morin.

            According to the government’s evidence, on Jan. 1, 1984, the body of the victim, Rachel Cox, 43, was found at 6:30 a.m., when her daughter came home to their apartment in the 3300 block of Sixth Street SE.  Ms. Cox was found on the floor, partially covered with a comforter, with her hands tied behind her back, her underwear at her feet, and 12 stab wounds to her torso, which injured her liver and heart.  The victim’s daughter had last seen her mother on New Year’s Eve just before midnight. Ms. Cox planned to stay in her home, watching TV, dressed for bed.

            Vaginal swabs taken from the body during the 1984 autopsy were submitted for DNA analysis in April 2013.  Semen was found on the swabs and a profile was developed.  Barber was identified as a suspect through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a web of state and national databases containing DNA profiles from convicted offenders and crime scenes that is used as an investigative tool.

            Barber’s profile was in the CODIS system as a result of a 1984 conviction in an unrelated rape case in which the victim was 10 years old; in that case, he pled guilty to rape and indecent acts with a minor for an attack that took place on Oct. 11, 1984. He served nearly 20 years in prison before his release in 2004.

            Michael Ambrosino, Special Counsel for DNA and Forensic Evidence Litigation, and Paralegal Specialist Benjamin Kagan-Guthrie, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, initially identified this murder case for further investigation and DNA analysis. That investigation of Ms. Cox’s murder led to Barber’s arrest in November 2013, and he has been in custody since that time.

            In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Phillips and Interim Chief Newsham commended the work of those who investigated the case from the Metropolitan Police Department. They also acknowledged the efforts of those who also worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Litigation Technology Specialists Leif Hickling and Paul Howell; Paralegal Specialists Alesha Matthews Yette, Debra Joyner, and Stephanie Siegerist; Victim/Witness Advocates Jennifer Clark and Karen Giannakoulias, and Victim/Witness Services Coordinators Tonya Jones and Katina Adams-Washington. Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney S. Vinét Bryant, who investigated, indicted and prosecuted the matter.

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 
Updated September 30, 2016