A Colorado Springs fast-food worker was sentenced Tuesday to 55 years in prison for fatally shooting a woman in front of her 6-year-old son during a botched robbery.
Defense attorneys said Corey Malik Bernard, 21, panicked during a July 2016 stickup in south Colorado Springs - firing three rounds from a semiautomatic pistol into a vehicle occupied by victim Sheree Barker, her boyfriend and her son.
Barker, 24, was shot in the chest while sitting in the driver's seat. No one else was shot, but her son witnessed his mother die from the backseat.
"I didn't mean for this to happen," Bernard told the court after apologizing to Barker's family. "I wish I could go back and change it, but I can't."
Bernard, who previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, had faced 50 to 60 years under a plea agreement.
His co-defendant, Trevelle Johnson, previously admitted to setting up the robbery and agreed to serve 30 years in prison for accessory to murder and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery. The sentences were imposed by 4th Judicial District Judge Michael McHenry.
During a tearful hearing, Barker's family members recalled her as sweet and kind - a Fountain native who worked as a hairdresser and loved her son.
Police gave this account:
Johnson, 21, created a phony identity and contacted Barker, asking her to sell him marijuana.
When Barker arrived at the agreed-upon location, in the 900 block of Chapman Drive in southeast Colorado Springs, she was accosted by Bernard, who demanded her money at gunpoint. The shooting came as Barker put the vehicle in reverse and tried to drive away.
McHenry said Barker was wrong to engage in illegal activity, but her choice to sell marijuana doesn't mean she shared blame in her death.
"People exchange marijuana all the time, and nobody gets hurt," the judge said in delivering his sentence. "It's not as if she could see this coming."
The crime remained unsolved for four months, until Colorado Springs police learned of a Facebook post by Bernard in which he expressed feelings of guilt over "something I never thought I would have done."
Bernard, who worked at a Burger King, confessed at a table in the dining room when a detective went to the Colorado Springs restaurant to ask what he meant.
"It didn't take very long at all," prosecutor Brien Cecil said, adding that Bernard told the detective, "I shot someone that night."
Johnson, who worked at a Culver's restaurant in Peyton, likewise confessed to his role setting up the robbery, telling police he didn't know Bernard was armed. McHenry said both men had loaded weapons that night, however.
Barker's son, now 7, is living with his father, family members said at the hearing.