“No one has anything to fear about me.

Towering trees shade West Junaluska Drive, an enclave of well-maintained brick ranchers and split-levels with manicured lawns in Richmond’s South Side. It’s a neighborhood in transition — young professionals moving in beside retirees who watched their children grow up here decades earlier.

But there are ghosts that haunt this idyllic community. An 11-year-old tragedy with unanswered questions, a case involving a brutal double homicide that never closed.  A frustrated family is left with no resolution. And the police’s original primary suspect remains free.

Around the corner in this neighborhood on Junaluska Court, Bob Midkiff is one of the few people home on a recent weekday morning.  A retired executive with Exxon, the 83-year-old has lived here for 43 years.

“It’s a quiet neighborhood,” Midkiff says, describing a place where folks wave but respect each other’s privacy. It’s been more than a decade, but he still recalls how Cynthia Johnson and her 7-year-old daughter, Heather, would play outside their house at 6535 W.  Junaluska Drive. They’d wave when he would drive past.

A couple living a few doors down from that house remember Cynthia and Heather as friendly and quiet, though neither of them knew the Johnsons well.

What they will never forget — what no long-time neighbor will forget — is the horror of Aug. 29, 1996.

In the early morning hours, firefighters discovered the body of Cynthia Johnson, 34, in her family room near the carport.  They found Heather, lifeless, in a bedroom at the front of the one-story house. At least seven fires had been set in the home, but neither mother nor daughter had died of smoke inhalation.

“It was a horrific crime,” recalls Sheriff C.T.  Woody,  then an officer with the Richmond Police Department. He declines to discuss the exact nature of the injuries, but calls them “ritualistic.”

“Being in homicide for 22 years, I’ve seen a lot of things,” Woody says. “That’s one I’ll always remember.”

In the ensuing investigation, police quickly found a target: a hulking 6-foot-5, 240-pound man named Glenn Haslam Barker.

He’d dated Cynthia Johnson. But things had turned sour, Woody says.

“She was in the process of getting away from him,” Woody says. She and her daughter had recently returned from a vacation with another man Johnson had become involved with, Woody says, and Barker wasn’t happy:  ”He did not want her to go on the vacation, according to her father.”

When he showed Barker gruesome pictures of the burned corpses of his ex-girlfriend and her daughter, Woody says Barker showed no emotion:  ”He’s a very cold individual.”

Police were unable to prove Barker was at the scene, Woody says, and the investigation floundered. “He’s a pathological liar,” Woody says of Barker. “He covers his tracks very well.”

Today it’s not too difficult to follow Barker’s tracks.  The 48-year-old lives in South River, N.J.

Speaking by phone from his home, Barker maintains his innocence in the case.  As for the police, he says,  ”They tried to convict me right then instead of looking where they should have been looking.”

The night Cynthia and Heather died, Barker says, Cynthia called him, asking him to come over. He says he declined.

“Now I wish I had,” Barker says, “because either I would have been dead or I would have prevented what happened from happening.”

Barker has admitted to only one crime in his life, an assault on an 18-year-old woman in North Carolina.

But he says he’s been the scapegoat for many more — abductions and homicides among them, some still unsolved. For one of them, the disappearance of a 12-year-old Charlottesville girl whose body has never been found, he spent nine years in prison — half of his sentence.  He got out 15 years ago, before Gov. George Allen abolished parole.

“It has not been a good life,”  Barker says.  At 6, his parents divorced and he remained with his mother in Hopewell. They stayed in Virginia another eight years, eventually moving to Chester and then to Angier, N.C.

There,  at Harnett County Central High School,  he became a football star, by his own and others’ accounts. According to school transcripts in his Charlottesville court file,  Barker was a C student whose talent lay primarily on athletic fields.  College scholarship offers were forthcoming.

“He could have written his ticket,” says a former acquaintance who attended high school with Barker and spoke on condition of anonymity.

But during his senior year, Barker’s girlfriend, Lynn, a pretty, petite sophomore, became pregnant. Instead of playing college ball, he married her, and soon after graduation he took a job in a local factory to support his wife and their infant son, Glenn Haslam Barker Jr., born in February 1979.

A second child, a girl, was born “in January or February 1981,” according to court documents. But she was given up for adoption three days after birth, about the same time Barker’s wife decided to leave him.

At 22,  Barker says he was drinking and using drugs, and distraught over his wife leaving.  What he did next was a “mistake,” he says.  ”I just wanted the company.”

He found it in an 18-year-old woman he’d known for about a year through her boyfriend.  She noticed Barker following her one February night around 9 while she was leaving church.  Barker motioned for her to stop and asked if they could talk.  She allowed him into her car, and the two drove around for about 20 minutes until she returned to his driveway to drop him off.

Then, according to court documents, Barker pulled a knife, held it to her throat, and took her inside because “he just needed someone tonight.”

He secured her to the bedposts of his bed, face down. “I tied her hands behind her back,” Barker says.

But when he left the residence to move the woman’s car,  she managed to wriggle free from her constraints.  She escaped out a window and ran to a friend’s house.

Barker says he never meant to harm her.  And when he realized what was happening he went outside and watched her escape. “It was wrong what I did there,” he says today.  ”I’m not trying to simplify it. It was very traumatic for her.”

Police believed Barker intended to further harm the woman, but when she refused to testify, the charges were reduced. Barker pled guilty to “assault on a female” and received a two-year suspended sentence.

Barker began court-ordered mental-health treatment, according to court documents — first at Dorothea Dix Hospital, a Raleigh psychiatric facility, and then through Region 10 Community Services Board in Charlottesville.

In March 1981, less than a month after the abduction, a report from North Carolina reveals that Barker sought psychological help “to find out why I did this.”

He was diagnosed with a “dependent personality” and an “adjustment disorder with depressed mood” — the kind of diagnosis that could fit almost anyone who seeks psychological counseling.

Soon after, Barker moved to Charlottesville, where his mother and stepfather lived.  There, at Region 10, he saw a therapist on three occasions.  But he ended the treatment, according to court documents, after a therapist suggested his impulsive behavior might have been prompted by “long-standing anger at women.”

According to the document,  that suggestion so distressed Barker that he asked for a change of therapist.  When that failed, he stopped attending the sessions.

If Region 10 failed to follow up with Barker, however, the decision might have been based on the judgment of the North Carolina psychiatrist who signed Barker’s papers and recommended probation for the abduction. “In my opinion,” the psychiatrist wrote, “he is not dangerous to others.”

Just over a year later, a little Charlottesville girl went to a sleepover and never came home.

It’s been 25 years since Katie Worsky went missing.

Her parents, Robin and Alan Worsky — who divorced in 1984 — meet outside a coffee shop on Pantops Mountain in Charlottesville on a recent June afternoon. They remember Katie as a tomboy who loved fishing and playing sports, a child who remained cheerful despite her daily insulin injections for Type I diabetes, which she’d had since she was 5.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” Robin says,  shaking her head and covering the tears that come easily.

On this day at least,  Alan Worsky keeps his pain closer. A salesman by trade, he has a personable demeanor, a firm handshake and a steady gaze.  His broad, toothy grin invites others to smile with him — and is a reminder of Katie, who favored him.

“She was my little buddy,”  he says,  recalling his daughter, blond and small for her age, begging to come with him on Chesapeake Bay fishing expeditions.  Robin agrees that Katie was closer to Alan, though both parents adored all three children — including their older daughter, Jamie, who was 15 at the time of the disappearance, and John, who was 5.

Alan Worsky was a car salesman at the time, and the family lived in an apartment. For that Fourth of July in 1982, a Sunday,  the Worskys traveled to a family reunion in Staunton, Robin’s hometown, where the couple had met soon after Alan graduated from Staunton Military Academy in 1965.

The following weekend, the five Worskys were home together until Sunday,  July 11, when Katie asked to spend the night at a friend’s house. Initially, Robin and Alan said no, though neither can recall their reason. But they remember that Katie was persistent.

“She begged and begged, ‘Please, please!'” Robin says. “She won the battle and got to go, but it’s ironic that we tried to stop her — for whatever reason.”

In late afternoon,  Alan drove Katie to 2745 McElroy Drive,  a modest brick rancher at the end of a wooded cul-de-sac. Katie was to spend the night with a former neighbor, a single mother of two, Carrie Gates. Her 13-year-old daughter, Tammy Thomas, was one of Katie’s close friends.

Though Gates had moved from Albermarle County to Charlottesville and the girls attended different schools, they’d had sleepovers before at each other’s houses, and the Worskys say they had no reason to worry.

They never saw Katie again.

Like so many horror stories, the Worskys’ nightmare started with a phone call.  At approximately 5:30 a.m.  July 12, a groggy Robin Worsky answered the insistent ringing of the phone.  On the other end, a woman asked:  ”Is Katie there?” It was Carrie Gates.

“I said,  ’What do you mean is Katie here?'”  Robin recalls. “‘She’s at your house.'”

The Worskys raced across town.  When they first arrived at McElroy Drive, they say, Katie’s disappearance didn’t seem possible.

“We were frantically searching the whole house,”  Robin says — “thinking she’s hiding, playing a game with us.” Gates had not yet called the police,  but the Worskys swiftly insisted upon it, and, they say, by approximately 7 a.m. the property was secured as a crime scene.

Before the police arrived,  however, another person showed up to help in the search: a 23-year-old convenience store clerk named Glenn Haslam Barker.

Robin Worsky says she’d never seen Barker.  But he was familiar to Alan, who frequently purchased coffee and cigarettes at the gas station on Pantops where Barker had worked.

“When he saw me, his eyes got big as silver dollars,” Alan says. “I knew right then and there that something was wrong.”

The police also had immediate suspicions.  Barker had dated Gates, but by this time any romantic relationship was over.  Barker readily admitted he’d been the last to see Katie the previous night, when the two girls and Tammy’s younger brother, Eddie Thomas, had gone to bed.

Barker said he’d brought over a six-pack of beer and had given Katie and Tammy at least one each, though Tammy later testified they’d had more. Barker said he left the house around 12:30 a.m., having tucked 8-year-old Eddie into bed, and after checking on the girls. He said they were sleeping peacefully on the ground floor.

Police weren’t buying his story.

In the days that followed Katie’s disappearance, the Charlottesville community searched together, hoping for a miracle, wondering how long the 12-year-old — if she were still alive — could survive without her insulin,  which had been found with her shoes and other belongings at her friend’s house.

As days turned to weeks, the search turned grimmer. Circling vultures anywhere in the area prompted search groups to investigate, hoping to at least bring closure to the nightmare.  Divers and canoers searched the Rivanna River, dogs scoured the woods around McElroy Drive and helicopters hovered overhead.

Rumors flew that Katie’s body was under the new Hardee’s at Pantops. The Charlottesville police chief wanted to dig through tons of refuse at the Ivy Landfill, although concerns about biohazards and lack of a solid lead to the site derailed that suggestion. Desperate, police even agreed to consult with psychic Noreen Renier,  who predicted Katie’s body was near a shed on a hillside somewhere in Albemarle.

Katie’s classmates joined in the search.

“It really rocked our world,”  says one of them, Rosemary Beard Heflin, now 37. “We always thought of Charlottesville as a very safe place.  Parents didn’t think twice about dropping their kids off to go to the mall.

“I felt very helpless, very frightened,” Heflin says, recalling a day in a canoe with her father looking for Katie on the Rivanna River.

Katie’s parents kept searching. In one of many July articles in the Charlottesville Daily Progress,  Alan Worsky described driving county roads “just looking to see if I can see a little girl with blond hair wandering around in a pink T-shirt.”

On July 15, Charlottesville Police Chief John “Dek” Bowen held a press conference to announce agonizing news:  Police were calling off the full-scale search.  Smaller search operations continued while officers followed up on dozens of tips.

“It was a very personal case to the police department,” says Bowen, now 73.  ”It still is.”

Although they never found a body, police were successful at unearthing clues.

Hours after Katie’s disappearance, they searched Barker’s apartment, with his permission.  They discovered wet, bloodstained men’s clothing and towels between the mattress and box spring of his bed and in a cooler.

Barker, who was present, appeared shocked at the discovery.

“There was a surprised look on Barker’s face,” Detective Bill Davis says in archived footage from Charlottesville’s NBC 29.  ”You know how you look at somebody and they think, well you found their secret?”

Davis, who died last year, says on the tape that Barker claimed he didn’t know how the clothing had got there — a statement Barker has maintained to this day.

In the years before DNA testing, the best way to match bloodstains to a person was by blood type. The stains on the wet clothes matched Barker’s Type A, but they also showed blood of Type B.  Unfortunately,  Katie’s blood type had never been documented.

Convinced that they might have missed something, investigators got a warrant to search Barker’s apartment a second time the following week, this time without giving him notice.

They’d nearly given up when lead investigator Jim Haden checked Barker’s dresser drawers. Inside a pair of rolled-up socks, there was a balled-up pair of girls’ panties. On the back of the panties was what appeared to be a tiny bloodstain that could be consistent with the location where Katie injected her insulin.

Still, investigators didn’t know Katie’s blood type. It wasn’t until January 1983, after investigators had spent months looking for a way to match the blood, that Katie’s parents discovered a solution. There were several stains on Katie’s mattress. Katie, they revealed, had recently begun menstruating, and the only other person to have slept in the bed was her menopausal grandmother, they said.

Excited,  police tested the mattress and discovered that five of the stains were blood.  More significantly, it was Type B.  The rope was tightening.

Though investigators suspected Barker from the beginning, then-Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Dick Barrick didn’t want to rush to press charges for fear that a jury wouldn’t convict without a body.

“She could have wandered off and died from shock or something from not taking her insulin,”  Barrick says.  ”She could have been kidnapped.”

Barrick, 78, explains his decision to wait more than six months before arresting Barker: “I wanted to make sure I had every bit of circumstantial evidence, and we were hoping in the meantime that we could either find Katie alive somewhere or, at worst, discover her body.”

The arrest came on January 29, 1983, and the trial nearly six months later.

The courtroom was packed with spectators. Officers and even the Worskys themselves were barred from the trial because they would be witnesses in the largely circumstantial case.

The jury listened to days of testimony from Katie’s family,  Carrie Gates and Tammy Thomas, and from hosts of officers and forensic experts.  Several of the jurors still recall the experience in remarkable detail.

“It was hard, depressing,” says Tanner Y. Carver, 76, a retired Comdial employee, who served on the jury. He and the others agree it was the forensic testimony that the blood stains from Katie’s mattress matched the type of blood on the wet clothes and panties found in Barker’s sock drawer that sealed their decision.

Another juror, a nurse who is now 69, spoke on the condition that her name not be used. She cites fear of Barker, who she says was an intimidating presence. His 6-foot-5 height was boosted by cowboy boots, she says, and he showed no emotion in court.

Images from news reports at the time show Barker smoking a cigarette and leaving court neatly groomed in a powder blue suit and tie, accompanied by his attorneys, Larry McElwain and Paul Peatross. Peatross later became a Charlottesville District and Albemarle Circuit Court judge.

The prosecution’s description of Barker’s behavior the fateful night may have disturbed jurors.

“It was chilling when they presented the case and how clever and cunning Barker was in manipulating the children,” the nurse says.  ”He could walk up the driveway and look in the window,  see the kids there.”

Uncontested facts emerged in testimony: Barker had given Katie and her friend Tammy beer.  Tammy testified that both girls had gotten sick after drinking them, and she said when she went to bed, she’d last seen Barker reading her brother a bedtime story.  Tammy testified that she awoke from a bad dream at approximately 5:30 and discovered Katie’s bed empty.

Barrick theorized at trial that after the two girls became intoxicated, Barker carried Katie to the ground floor rec room and attempted to molest her.  Drops of blood matching Katie’s type were found on the rug and around the room’s coffee table.

“Something violent went on [there] involving Katie,” Barrick says. “One would have to also assume that it involved Barker.  What it was or why it happened, we had no evidence on that at all.  You could argue from Barker’s standpoint that she had fallen.”

Forensic experts testified that a hair found in Barker’s car was consistent with Katie’s hair,  and police dogs identified her scent in his car. Charlottesville Police detective Chip Harding testified that an “angry” Barker had called the department eight days after Katie’s disappearance to personally threaten Harding. He also seemed to be suddenly hazy on details about Worsky.

“Why should I tell?”  Harding testified that Barker said.  “I’ll wait for the facts, and then I’ll remember them.”  Harding also testified that when police showed Barker the mounting evidence against him and asked if he’d harmed Katie,  he responded,  ”I probably did, but I don’t remember.”

Harding told the court that Barker was angry with him because Harding had warned an 18-year-old woman Barker had been dating that he was dangerous.  Harding,  now a police captain running for election for Albemarle County sheriff, declined to comment for this story.

Following more than a week of testimony and jury deliberations, the jury convicted Barker of second-degree murder July 28, 1983.  It recommended a sentence of 18 years, two years short of the 20-year maximum.

Although McElwain and Peatross eventually appealed the case to the Virginia Supreme Court, the guilty verdict remained.

Jurors say that they quickly agreed on the verdict, but coming up with a sentence was harder.  Eventually, they agreed on 18 years.

Virginia law,  however,  held a surprise.

“We didn’t realize at that time that parole came in any time after nine years,”  says juror Carver,  who learned that Barker would be paroled from watching news reports.

“That was very galling to me,” agrees the anonymous juror.

It was galling to someone else as well— someone with the power to do something.

Ten years after the conviction, George Allen ran for governor on a platform with a bold and controversial plan to eliminate parole. In 1995, a year after he took office,  Allen followed through on his campaign promise. He eliminated mandatory parole, increased sentences for violent offenders and established “truth-in-sentencing,” a law that requires that juries be told exactly how much time someone they convict will serve.

Writing by Blackberry mobile device from a family vacation in Italy recently,  Allen — an Albemarle County resident when Katie Worsky disappeared — says he thought about Katie when he pushed the changes through the Virginia General Assembly.

“The early release of her convicted murderer was another of many aggravating examples of why I wanted to abolish the lenient, dishonest parole system,”  writes Allen, adding,  ”our hearts ache for the Worsky family.”

Had the changes been in place in 1982,  Barker would have served all 18 years. In addition to abolishing parole, Allen did away with “bifurcated jury trials,” which in the past prevented juries from learning about defendants’ prior records when they were determining a sentence.

Indeed, the Worsky jury had not heard about Barker’s prior record, which included the 1981 assault conviction in North Carolina.

“It was hard to see that after the fact,” says the anonymous juror, who says the information made her feel better about convicting and sentencing in the absence of a body. “Thank God,” she says, “we did as much as we did.”

From his New Jersey home,  Barker says the investigation and the trial were riddled with errors and inconsistencies, and that he was set up.  He maintains that he had nothing to do with Katie’s disappearance and that he left the house sometime after midnight, with all three children safe.

Barker says he’d come over to visit with Gates,  but when she told him she was too tired to drink the beer he’d brought and was going to bed, he planned to leave.

Instead, he says, the kids beckoned him into the rec room.  Tammy and Eddie “were crazy about me,” he says. “We hung out all the time.”

Barker says the girls asked him to share his beer. “I know it was wrong,” he says, “but I was young, too, and I wasn’t going to be the bad guy.” He says that he never saw Katie become ill from the alcohol, but agrees with trial testimony that Tammy threw up.

“I was holding her hair when she was throwing up in the toilet,”  he says.  He read Eddie a bedtime story, and then “five minutes after Eddie fell asleep, I was gone.”

He says he remembers the drive back home. He took the long route, he says, so he could gaze at coeds at the University of Virginia.  The idea that he would be sexually interested in a child, he says, makes no sense.

“I was dating two other girls when this happened,” he says.  ”Everyone said I was looking to have sex.  There were two other places I could have went. Why would I want a child? Especially if I had to use force.  I could go get it free with no problems.”

He says he doesn’t know how the bloodstained clothing got under his mattress and notes that he allowed police to come in for the first search — something he says he wouldn’t have done if he’d had something to hide.

He also wonders why police didn’t find the panties on the first search, and why they got a warrant when he’d already agreed to let them come in. He suspects they planted the evidence, a charge they deny.

He questions the validity of the blood on Katie’s mattress and says bloodstains were “used up” by prosecution tests, so the defense was forced to rely on those results rather than getting independent tests.  He also says the use of dogs to match Katie’s scent to his car and to establish his path out of the house with her was flawed and that the dogs seemed to identify several different locations and vehicles.

Robin Worsky visited Barker twice in prison and begged him to reveal the location of her daughter’s body.  ”I told him,  ’I’ll do whatever it takes to help you, if you help me.’ I was just desperate,”  Worsky says.

Barker maintained his innocence so convincingly that she began to harbor doubts.

“I’m not saying I think he’s innocent,” she says.  ”I don’t know where the guilt lies.  I think, maybe, had he gotten her drunk, had she fallen and hit her head, that he would have freaked out. He may have taken care of the problem.”

Following those visits, Robin says, Barker began writing her letters asking her to come back and hoping she’d befriend his mother.

“He thought I was the solution to his problem,” Robin says.  ”I wasn’t. I needed a solution to mine.”

For the living,  a lot happens in 25 years.  ”We’ve changed,” says Katie’s sister,  Jamie Worsky.  ”We’ve had to.  My parents have gotten older, my brother and I grew up.”

Katie, however, will always be 12. A day doesn’t go by that Jamie Worsky doesn’t think about her sister.  But she says time has robbed her of some memories.

“I don’t remember her voice,”  she says,  choking up.  ”I try and I try.”  She looks for signs of Katie in her own children. “I kind of see her, especially in my son,” she says.

Still, she remembers Katie’s essence: mischievous, fun-loving.  She’d just started to establish a closer relationship when Katie disappeared.

Although they think about Katie constantly,  Alan and Robin Worsky say they have no family traditions in which they formally remember her. There has never been a memorial service — private or public.  Twenty-five years later, Robin Worsky’s fear that she’d never know exactly what happened has been realized.

“I don’t have a death certificate,” she says.  ”I don’t have a place to go to visit her.” Her grief wells once more.  ”I can’t have a memorial for her. I think about it, but I can’t do it,” she says, weeping at the Pantops coffee shop. “I know I need to close it, but I don’t know how.”

Standing,  she enters the coffee shop for a glass of water. Alan touches her arm and watches her go, then turns and gazes at the horizon to the west.

“I look at it differently than Robin,” he says. “Her resting place is wherever the Lord wants her to be,”  he says,  gesturing to the mountains and the clouds drifting across the sky.  ”In time we’ll know,” he says, “but not on this earth.”

Asked about the plight of the Worskys, Barker says he’s sympathetic.  ”I grieve for their loss,” he says.

And as he told Robin Worsky during her visits to him, he says if he knew where Katie was, he would tell.  ”I did the time,” he says. “I might as well.”

On April 30, 1992, Barker walked out of the Buckingham Correctional Center a free man. He was 33.

Barker says he tried to settle somewhere and live out his days quietly. But within a few years, it was clear that he would be denied his pursuit of a life of tranquility and anonymity.

As Barker moved around Virginia and eventually to New Jersey, headlines reported the furor his presence inspired. Warned by police of Barker’s arrival, people picketed in front of his house as television cameras rolled.

Yet if his conviction for Katie Worsky’s murder was enough to create fear,  his connection to the gruesome murder of Cynthia and Heather Johnson in 1996 sent new ripples of terror up and down the East Coast [see “Serial Killer or Scapegoat?” at]. Despite Barker’s never being charged in any other murder case, many people contacted for this story remain afraid of him.

“If he ever showed up on my doorstep … ,” says more than one person, trailing off. Says another,  ”I don’t even want him to know I’m alive.”

Out of prison, Barker moved with his mother to King William County, about 30 miles northeast of Richmond.  The neighbors did not welcome him, particularly after Robert Ressler, the famed FBI profiler turned best-selling author, declared that Barker would very likely kill again.

“I had a young daughter,”  says Carol Nicely,  a now-retired Richmond police captain who lived within sight of the Barker home.  Nicely says she stopped letting her daughter ride her bike alone or walk to neighbors’ houses.

News reports from the time suggest neighbors’ fears reached a fever pitch when Ressler noted that Barker’s age still left him in his killing  ”prime.”

If most people reviled him, Barker was able to connect with someone.  Cynthia Powers Johnson met Barker soon after his release, and the two began dating. Barker says Johnson was aware of his past,  but the single mother was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt,  even as the protests — and the publicity — mounted.

During that time, Barker agreed to an interview with the Tidewater Review in which he promised he was no threat.

“I truly believe that the people in the community are not bad people,  just misinformed,”  he said.  ”I’m sure they’re nice, and they’re scared and afraid.  I’m no different — I’ve just maybe a little more experience in some things than they have,  and murder is not one of them.”

His words didn’t soothe neighbors, but folks in Prince William wouldn’t have to live with Barker for long.

In Henrico County, police pulled Barker over at 1 a.m. March 26, 1993, for a broken tail light.  But if the stop was routine, what police discovered was chilling: a partially concealed sawed-off pellet gun and handcuffs.

Profiler Ressler testified that even if the handcuffs could be explained, the combination of the two items in the car had a “stronger implication.” Officers called it a “rape/kidnap kit.”

Initially, officers allowed Barker to leave the scene because they weren’t sure the pellet gun counted as a firearm,  but about a week later,  he was arrested and later found guilty of possessing a firearm as a felon. He was sent back to jail for six months.

Barker insists there was an innocent explanation for the forbidden items.  He says he had the pellet gun because he felt threatened.

“I came out to my car one day,   and the door was bashed in,”  he recalls.  Since he was dating Johnson,  he says,  often both she and her daughter,  Heather,  were with him.

“I didn’t care about my safety,” he insists. “I did care about theirs. The only reason I had the B.B. gun was in case somebody tried to stop me on the road and Cynthia or Heather was with me, I’d pull the gun out and point it at whoever was going to bother me to get Cynthia over into the driver’s seat.”

“Was it stupid?” he asks.  ”I’d rather be stupid than have Cynthia or Heather get hurt.  My main concern was their safety.”

As for the handcuffs, he says those, too, were harmless. “Cynthia had given me those as a joke, and they were in the car,” he says. “They weren’t real; they didn’t lock.  You can get them at the Dollar Store.  I threw them in the back of the truck.  I never thought nothing about it.”

Neither Cynthia nor her daughter will ever be able to confirm that account.

In Richmond, the Johnsons’ case remains open. Their family declined to be interviewed for this story, citing frustration with past news coverage and a desire to keep a low profile.

The Richmond police Web site asks anyone with information to contact detectives and, noting that a pizza was delivered to Johnson’s house the night of the murders, seeks any information about the delivery driver.

In addition to that request for information, neighbors on and around West Junaluska say police are still actively pursuing the case. Within the past two years, says Bob Midkiff, police set up a roadblock and asked everyone who passed to share any information they could recall about the night of the crime.

Roosevelt Welch, who five years ago moved into a house across the street and a few houses down from where the Johnsons lived, says even if police are seeking a pizza driver, they still seem to consider Barker the prime suspect.

“They said the guy who did it lives in New Jersey,” he says.  Midkiff reports hearing similar information.

Richmond Police Sgt.  Max Matco, in charge of the cold file, declined to comment specifically on the investigation.

Sheriff Woody says a neighbor believed he’d seen Barker’s pickup — notable for a Redskins sticker on the back — at the Johnsons’ home that night.  But the neighbor would not testify.

Police interrogated Barker several times, says Woody, who kept a picture of the crime scene on his desk  ”to remind me how important it was to go after who did this.”

Barker says police “went so far as to say they had neighbors that had me there that night.  They told me they found my semen there and things like this.”  That proves trickery, he says, because health problems by then had made him impotent.

Barker says he and Johnson had ended their romantic relationship, in part because of his impotence, but that they remained friends.

But he lost that friend, just one more loss in a number of tragedies Barker says has befallen him. Now, he says, his health is failing — he’s a diabetic who has suffered two strokes and three heart attacks — and wishes for the most part to be left alone.

Sheriff Woody wishes he could put what happened behind him, too.

“It’s one of the few cases that I was unable to solve,  that bothered me and still bothers me greatly,” says Woody.  ”I still see the little girl, Heather.” S

Courteney Stuart is senior editor at Hook, a weekly newspaper in Charlottesville. She launched her journalism career at Style Weekly in the fall of 1996 as an eager editorial intern named Courteney Blum.

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