When Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding learned last week that Glenn Barker has been dead for six months, he said he slept well for the first time in decades.
“It’s a relief, because he had threatened me and my family during the course of the investigation, and even in the courtroom,” said Harding of the man convicted of killing 12-year-old Katherine Sybil “Katie” Worsky in Charlottesville in 1982 and suspected in several other homicides.
“He was not someone to take lightly,” said Harding, who said he and his family were so shaken by the threats that his now adult daughter carried a photo of Barker with her starting in high school so she would recognize him if he approached her and Harding’s wife got a concealed weapons permit.
“He was one of the few that I viewed as a true threat to my family,” he said. “I feel much more relaxed now.”
According to online records in Moore County, North Carolina, Barker died July 20, 2014, at age 55 while living in the golfing resort town of Pinehurst. Harding said he has tracked Barker’s whereabouts since he was released from prison in April 1992 after serving just nine-and-a-half years for Worsky’s murder, and has regularly asked police in jurisdictions where Barker has lived to keep an eye on him.
“I was told he had a heart attack,” said Pinehurst Deputy Chief Floyd Thomas, who said Barker had lived in his jurisdiction without incident since 2012. He’d been aware of Barker’s past, he said, because “the Charlottesville Police Department called and spoke with me and gave me a heads-up about him.”
Harding was a detective in the CPD when Worsky was reported missing from a sleepover at a friend’s house in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood on July 12, 1982. Exhaustive searches using dogs and helicopters turned up no sign of the girl, and police quickly zeroed in on then 23-year-old Barker, a convenience store clerk who had visited the home earlier in the evening and admitted giving beer to Worsky and her friend.
In a search of Barker’s apartment, police found a pair of girl’s underpants inside a rolled up pair of Barker’s socks. Worsky was a diabetic, and a tiny spot of blood on the underpants matched the location where she would have given herself insulin injections. Police also discovered men’s wet, blood-stained clothes in between Barker’s mattress and box spring. Rumors about the location of Worsky’s remains swirl to this day, with ongoing speculation that she is buried in the foundation of the Pantops Hardee’s, which was under construction at the time of her disappearance. Worsky’s younger brother, John Worsky, said his family received an anonymous letter making that claim two years ago, and they submitted it for forensic testing in an effort to determine the sender. “We called the police, and they sent it down to Richmond,” he said, but no results have come back.
Barker, who admitted assaulting a young woman in North Carolina at knifepoint in 1981, a year before Worsky vanished, always maintained his innocence in Worsky’s disappearance, even after he was convicted of her second-degree murder in 1983. The earlier assault case was dismissed when the victim refused to testify. Barker claimed he’d never intended to harm the woman in that case and cited it as the reason law enforcement unfairly targeted him as a suspect in other crimes.
Harding, however, said he never had any doubts that Barker was a killer, and he recalls Barker’s threatening demeanor as the months-long investigation unfolded, particularly after Harding contacted a woman Barker was dating to warn her about him.
“There was information that he had surveilled my wife a couple of days as the investigation was going on, and he was telling other investigators that he would get back at me at some point,” said Harding, who retired from the Charlottesville Police Department and has served as Albemarle County Sheriff since 2008.
The investigation and trial drew intense media coverage, and Barker moved to Richmond after he was paroled in 1992, nine years before his 18-year sentence officially ended. Three years later, Governor George Allen abolished parole, and in a 2007 interview in The Hook cited Barker’s release as one reason why.
Worsky’s death wouldn’t be the last time Barker was connected to a crime. In 1996, as detailed in a 2007 feature story in The Hook, a young woman and her 7-year-old daughter were found “ritualistically” slaughtered inside their South Richmond home, which had been set on fire. The woman had recently ended a romantic relationship with Barker and had taken a trip to Florida with a new love interest. Although a witness reportedly claimed seeing Barker’s pick-up truck near the home at the time of the murders, police were unable to build a case against him. In an interview for that article, Barker denied any involvement in the slayings and said the break-up had been amicable, a result of health problems that had caused him to become impotent. He moved to New Jersey soon after their deaths, where national controversy erupted when Virginia police, who suspected him in a slew of other disappearances and killings and had continued to track him, learned he was volunteering as a girls’ basketball coach and alerted local authorities.
For Worsky’s family, who never learned what happened to their child, the pain of her loss will be lifelong. Her parents, Robin and Alan Worsky, divorced the year after her disappearance, something they attributed to their grief in a 2007 interview. Robin twice visited Barker in jail, pleading fruitlessly with him to tell her where to find Katie’s body. Robin died in March 2014 without ever getting an answer.
Katie Worsky’s family may never know what happened to her, but her brother, who was five when his sister vanished, said he gave up long ago on getting answers from Barker.
“If he had any remorse, he would have at least attempted to make amends,” said John Worsky, who also expressed relief that Barker is gone.
“My condolences to his family, but I’m not sorry,” he said. “There’s no reason to feel remorse for someone like that. No matter what the circumstances it was or is, I can’t forgive.”