ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — As family and friends read impact statements at the sentencing of Thomas Barker Friday, Nov. 30, in Douglas County District Court, his victim sat with her head down, unable to look at the man who kidnapped her.

It was her first time in the courtroom for the Alexandria girl, now 16, who escaped from three men after being held captive for 29 days. She was taken from her home in August 2017, later swimming across part of lake about 20 miles west of Alexandria to escape.

In July, Barker, 33, of Carlos, pleaded guilty to kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct in the first degree with a dangerous weapon and criminal sexual conduct in the first degree causing fear of great bodily harm.

Judge Timothy Churchwell sentenced Barker to 25 years in prison. He is also required to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life, and after his release will be on lifetime probation.

When he is to be released from prison, a petition can be filed to have Barker civilly committed, which means if the conditions are met, he would be sent back to prison for life.

“It’s hard being in the courtroom,” said the girl’s mother said. “This has been a very long process and we are glad to be done.”

The mother said that along with her daughter and the rest of their family and friends, she wishes he would have gotten a longer sentence.

“We all have a lifetime of dealing with this,” she said.

‘I think you’re sick’

In a letter written by the victim and read by her mother in court on Friday, she wrote, “Dear Thomas, I think you’re sick. You make me sick to my stomach. My life will never be the same…”

She said she is always scared some guy is going to kidnap her. She said she just wants her happy life back and for people to stop calling her names because it was not her fault for what happened. She said she has bad dreams and doesn’t know who she can trust.

She also told Barker that she hopes he has a good life without nightmares or worrying that bad stuff is going to happen to him.

“I just want to go a day without thinking about it, but I can’t,” she wrote in her letter.

Mother speaks out

Her mother also had also prepared a statement, which she read aloud in the courtroom.

She said she has known Barker since her children were babies and that he was someone she could trust, but he broke that trust and used that trust, along with her daughter’s caring nature, to lure her into his vehicle the night she disappeared leading to extensive searches for the girl, but with few leads to act on.

For most of the time the girl was missing, she was held at Barker’s home in Carlos, a small town just north of Alexandria.

“We are stronger,” the mother said. “Through God and his strength, we will get through this and we will win,” she said. “Some day, your day of judgement will come. I really hope you think long and hard about all this… I can never forgive or forget what happened.”

Other defendants

Joshua Holby, 32, of Carlos, pleaded guilty in September to two counts of kidnapping, a felony-level offense.

Steven Powers, 21, of Mankato, entered a guilty plea Nov. 28 to second-degree criminal sexual conduct and to kidnapping.

Both men will be sentenced in January.