Barker sentenced to 15 years to life in prison

Jenna Staul

Adrian Barker was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison yesterday for the November 2009 murder of Kent State student Christopher Kernich.

Barker, 21, who addressed the Kernich family in court, will also serve a five-year sentence for tampering with evidence while in prison for the murder charge. He and Ronald Kelly, 20, have both been convicted in the death of 23-year-old Kernich.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about (Kernich),” Barker said, standing at a podium before presiding judge John Enlow. “It hurts. Everyday, I agonize over it.”

Barker, appearing in court shackled at the waist and ankles in a striped orange and white jumpsuit, turned toward Kernich’s family and friends seated in the back row of the court room.

“From everything I’ve heard he was exceptional,” he said. “And I’m sorry that you guys feel that way.”

Barker’s defense attorney asked that a court-appointed attorney be recalled for an appeal. Barker was also ordered to pay restitution for Kernich’s funeral and medical costs.

Kernich, then a senior business major, died of massive head injuries at Akron City Hospital on Nov. 21, 2009, six days after he was found brutally beaten on East Main Street in Kent. Both Barker and Kelly were found guilty of punching Kernich and stomping his head and body after he fell to the sidewalk in the early morning of Nov.15.

Barker remained expressionless as Kernich’s friends and family urged Enlow to give him the maximum sentence for the crime, many of them sobbing from the back of the court room as Kernich’s mother and sister spoke before the judge.

“Instead of buying him a car as a graduation gift, I’m planning a monument for his gravestone” said Kernich’s father John through tears. “I was not there to protect my son or catch him when he fell.”

Enlow heard testimony on behalf of those close to Barker, who each described him as “gentle,” recalling him as a kindhearted athlete and role model from Shaker Heights.

“He was one of the finest young men I had the pleasure of coaching,” said James Sweeney, a teacher and coach in the Shaker Heights school district. “He was someone I could count on. A role model to other players. Someone who I could put my children in the care of.”

But Steve Gibbons, a childhood friend of Kernich, said the murder of his friend has made life in their hometown of Fairborn particuarly painful.

“Mr. Barker has ruined what was supposed to be one of the best times of my life,” said Gibbons, who following the sentencing expressed satisfaction at Enlows’ ruling. “He will never get to live the life he wanted to live.”

A sentencing hearing for Ronald Kelly, who was convicted on May 21, has not yet been scheduled.

Contact Editor Jenna Staul at [email protected].