SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – On the day he was expected to plead guilty, Michael Barber instead decided he wants to go to trial.
The now 18-year-old is accused of last August stabbing and killing his sister, Akia Molina, and her husband, Savannah Police Cpl. Luis Molina at their home in Wilmington Island. The teen had been living with the couple when the incident happened.
Barber faces two counts of malice murder and two counts of felony murder. He was expected to plead guilty to the felony murder charges in court Friday. Prosecutors would have then dropped the malice murder charges.
“The agreement was that if he entered an open-ended guilty plea this morning then the only issue would be life with or without parole,” explained Asst. Chatham County District Attorney Greg McConnell.
But just moments before the court was in session, Barber spoke with his father, Michael Barber, Sr. When court resumed, his attorney announced the teen would not be taking the plea deal.
“I spoke with my client, he wishes to proceed with the trial, I respect that decision,” said Attridge.
“He would entertain a plea to a charge as to Luis Molina, and a voluntary lesser on his sister Akia Molina,” explained Robert Attridge, Barber’s Attorney. “I presented that to the state, they said they were not pleased with that.”
As part of that proposed deal, prosecutors would have requested a sentence of life with parole and would not have asked for consecutive life terms. That would have opened the door for Barber to eventually get out of prison.
The Chatham County District Attorney’s Office said immediately after that, they have pulled that plea deal off the table, and the case would be headed to trial.
“It was made known to the defense that if the failed to enter a guilty plea today then that plea offer would be withdrawn,” said McConnell. “It is withdrawn.”
Family and friends of Luis and Akia Molina were visibly upset as the decision was announced. Several people openly wept as the hearing finished up.
Luis Molina’s brother told News 3 that his brother proudly served in the military and with the Savannah Police Department. He said Luis did not deserve this ending — to be brutally murdered inside his own home.
The brother added that the family doesn’t want to go to trial and relive the murders and see the evidence. But now they will have to do just that.
If convicted, Barber could receive a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.
No trial date has been set.