Army investigators plan to soon formally close their investigation into the death of a former Fort Carson soldier, claiming to have “exhausted all leads” after his body was found seven years ago blocking a pipe inside the post’s sewage treatment plant.
The move to stop actively investigating Joseph Barker’s death rescinds a $15,000 reward for tips leading to an arrest and conviction in the case, said Christopher Grey, a spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command at Quantico, Va. No exact date for the closure was given.
The decision outraged the veteran’s mother, who called it “horrible” and another sign that agents reneged on a promise to figure out what happened to her son.
“I’ve worked on this case with them all this time, for results,” said Barker’s mother, Lynda Carlock. “And now I feel seven years later, that it was for nothing.”
The answer to how Barker ended up in the post’s sewage treatment center has eluded a revolving door of Army investigators since the grisly discovery on Feb. 21, 2006.
Barker visited the post often after being discharged from the Army in 2005 — relishing the chance to spend time with friends who could relate to his 2003 deployment to Iraq with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
On Feb. 7, 2006, he was partying with friends off post and then went to the barracks. His friends recalled seeing him sleeping in a bed the following morning while they left for physical training.
Barker was last seen being led from the barracks “to a dark colored vehicle.” Medical examiners found cocaine in his system, Grey said, but were unable to determine the cause and manner of death.
His estranged wife reported him missing six days later.
Since then, few clues have been released.
“It’s extremely challenging,” Grey said. “You’ve got a very badly decomposed body... the variables that could have happen to this young man, there’s quite a few of them.”
In late 2011, the Army raised its reward from $10,000 to $15,000 — upping the incentive for tips while issuing a promise.
“We are confident that someone out there knows something about the death of Mr. Barker and we are not resting or giving up until we determined exactly what transpired,” said Christopher Vitatoe, an Army investigator, in a 2011 news release.
Even with the case classified as “closed,” investigators will continue to “periodically” review Barker’s case file, and special agents will pursue any new tips, Grey said.
But without a reward, Carlock said people won’t have incentive to phone in tips.
“There has been no closure,” Carlock said. “And I don’t know if closing the case without any answer is closure either.”
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