HE TOLD detectives he stabbed his 14-year-old girlfriend’s mother to death after she caught the pair having sex in a car, according to prosecutors.
A chilling text message allegedly sent by him stating, “I have the knives picked out,” was shown as evidence to jurors in court.
But Caleb Barnes, 21, denied all of it on Tuesday as his trial for the murder of Cheryl Silvonek opened in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh County Court in front of a packed gallery.
Ms Silvonek’s daughter Jamie, now 15, was jailed for a minimum of 35 years in February after pleading guilty to taking part in the March 2015 killing.
“I was a monster,” Jamie said during her plea hearing. “There is no sugar-coating it and there is absolutely no sympathy. There’s no mitigating factors. In my opinion, there’s absolutely nothing.”
Barnes’ lawyer Richard Webster says his client, an army specialist, played no role in the death but conceded he helped clean up the crime scene and bury the mother’s body.
Mr Webster labelled Jamie Silvonek a “liar” and “manipulator” and argued that there’s no physical evidence that proves Barnes committed the slaying.
“Jamie Silvonek wanted her mother dead,” he told the jury. “She killed her own mother.”
Jamie is expected to take the stand later this week to testify against her former boyfriend, according to a report in The Morning Caller.
Prosecutors say Barnes was wielding the knife when Ms Silvonek was killed in the driveway of her home on March 15, 2015.
Barnes is charged with criminal homicide and abuse of a corpse and faces life in jail.
On Tuesday, jurors were shown dozens of pieces of evidence, including photos of Ms Silvonek’s blood-spattered ute and the knife allegedly used in the killing.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Dimmig told the court that Barnes plotted for a week with Jamie Silvonek to kill Cheryl Silvonek, then stabbed her in the throat, because she objected to her daughter’s relationship with the then 20-year-old soldier.
Mr Dimmig alleges Ms Silvonek was murdered after she drove the couple home from a rock concert and that Barnes made a full confession after his arrest.
“He tells police that he did it for absolutely no reason,” he told the court.
The prosecutor showed jurors a series of text message Barnes and Jamie allegedly exchanged in the week leading up to the killing. In one of the texts, which was projected on a large screen in the courtroom, Barnes allegedly wrote: “I have the knives picked out.”
Mr Dimmig told the jury that Barnes, who was on leave from Fort Meade in Maryland when the homicide occurred, had admitted his true age to Ms Silvonek and was worried that she would get him in trouble.
“If she calls the cops I’ll lose my job,” one text from Barnes to Jamie allegedly read.
When she pleaded guilty, Jamie Silvonek admitted lying to Barnes about her age during their six-month relationship by saying she was 16. Police say she hid her relationship with Barnes from her mother until a week before the killing, then tried to convince Cheryl Silvonek that he was 16.
In court on Tuesday, Lehigh County Detective Richard Heffelfinger testified that Barnes admitted to the stabbing and gave police a number of reasons why he did it.
Detective Heffelfinger testified that, at one point, Barnes claimed he killed his girlfriend’s mother in self-defence when she attacked him after catching the pair in the middle of a “sexual act” in her car.
Police allege Jamie Silvonek and Barnes buried Ms Silvonek’s body in a shallow, snow-covered grave. A post-mortem examination revealed the mother had been stabbed five times and sustained bruises to her head and face. Haemorrhages in her eyes and a broken bone in her neck show that she was also strangled, Mr Dimmig said.