Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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April 18, 2013

KSP: Carter man died of accidental fall from cliff

No signs of foul play in Nathan Barker's death

GRAYSON — Investigators have determined a Carter County who went missing in July 2011 and whose skeletal remains were found in a remote area near Grayson Lake more than a year later died as the result of an accidental fall from a cliff.

Kentucky State Police at Ashland on Thursday said its investigation and an autopsy performed at the state Medical Examiner’s Office in Frankfort found no evidence indicating foul play was involved in the death of 20-year-old Nathan R. Barker of Olive Hill.

The KSP also said it had determined there was no connection between Barker’s death and any other criminal investigation. At the time of Barker’s disappearance, investigators were looking into the possibility of ties between it and the then-unsolved murder of Dillon “Nemo” Bryant, 19, of Olive Hill.

Authorities launched a search for Barker after his maroon Cadillac was found crashed into a guardrail on Ky. 7 near Grayson Lake on July 12, 2011. Barker had spent time with a group of of friends at a home on Three Pine Road the previous night and was last seen leaving there. The accident scene was not far from where Bryant’s body was found in a farm pond in April 2011.

The KSP said its investigation uncovered a “substantial amount” of evidence pointing to Barker’s death being accidental in nature. Key among the findings, the agency said, was Barker’s cellphone, which was found near the Clifty Creek site where his remains were discovered by hikers on Oct. 14.

The phone had been damaged, but once technicians repaired it, it was discovered Barker had attempted to send several text messages describing his vehicle accident and him walking in a wooded area near the wreck scene trying to find help, the KSP said.

Barker also “indicated in the text messages his location and his unfamiliarity with the wooded area,” the KSP said. The area described by Barker in the messages was where his remains were later found.

Also, the autopsy revealed Barker had suffered injuries that were “indicative of a fall from a cliff,” the KSP said.

Barker’s disapperance was initially investigated by the Carter County Sheriff’s Department. The KSP took it over after his remains were found.

Earlier this month, the KSP’s Morehead post announced an arrest had been made in Bryant’s murder. Kyle S. Holbrook, 20, of Olive Hill, who was already in the Rowan County Detention Center on unrelated drug charges, was indicted by  Rowan grand jury on charges of murder and tampering with physical evidence in the slaying of Bryant. He is scheduled to be arraigned May 13 in Elliott Circuit Court.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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