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Judge to smirking killer: 'You must be removed from society forever'

While Caleb Barnes opted not to speak at his sentencing Monday for murdering the mother of his teen girlfriend, his face said it all.

The smirk — seen numerous times in photos taken of Barnes before his preliminary hearing in the case — was back as the soldier stood before Judge Maria Dantos to learn his punishment for killing Cheryl Silvonek.

Barnes, with a full beard and wearing a suit, tie and shackles, was well aware he faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Barnes plans to appeal his conviction, his attorney said, and opted to keep quiet at Monday’s hearing.

“You have nothing to say, and that’s just fine,” the judge said before launching into a cutting take-down of the “small, little man.”

Solider accused in killing, burning of corpse

Dantos said a person shows their true character when no one is watching, but that investigators and prosecutors shone a light on Barnes’ faults.

“What is showed was your cowardice, your inhumanity, your lack of any decency or empathy,” the judge said. 

Barnes “blind-sided” Cheryl Silvonek as he sat behind her in the woman’s car, savagely stabbing her in the throat.

“The evidence showed that she did fight back — hard. She tried,” the judge said to Barnes, adding that in the woman’s final moments she was “acutely aware you and her daughter were murdering her.”

“What a torturous death for a loving mother,” Dantos said.

Caleb Barnes’ photo from his Twitter account.

Dantos sentenced Barnes to life in prison without parole, and then added 22 to 44 years for the remaining charges. Dantos said Barnes’ tattoos of angel wings on his back, which he said represents good versus evil, would have to be filled out in prison.

“Evil has won,” the judge said. “You must be removed from society forever.”

Dantos also brought up Jamie Silvonek, Chery Silvonek’s daughter and Barnes’ former girlfriend.

“It’s not lost on the court you had an accomplice … and that it took the both of you to kill Cheryl Silvonek,” Dantos said.

Speaking to David Silvonek after he addressed the court, Dantos said she recognized that he not only lost his wife, but he lost his daughter as well.

Jamie Silvonek pleaded guilty for her role in her mother’s death, and admitted she helped plan the killing, push Barnes to do it and then help dispose of the body.

But Dantos stressed that the jury believed the girl’s testimony about what happened on March 15, 2015, over Barnes’ testimony — that they believed she accepted responsibility for what she had done and was finished lying about the crime.

“You can remember (Cheryl Silvonek) as the loving and beautiful wife and mother that she was,” the judge said. “It is clear that this world lost a loving, kind, giving and special person. May she rest in peace.”

The judge referenced that Barnes is planning to write a book.

“No one will care,” she said. “Cheryl will be remembered with love by all that knew her. You will be locked in a cage for the rest of your natural life.”

Loss of a wife, loss of a daughter

“I often wish it would have been me, not Cheryl,” David Silvonek said in court on Monday.

David Silvonek said the day his wife was killed was the worst day of his life, and the days since have been “hell on earth.” In the wake of the killing he has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, and had to resign from his job.

“Cheryl was the cornerstone of our family,” and put everyone before herself, he said.

MORE: Jamie Silvonek, 14, pleads guilty in mother’s killing

David Silvonek said he met his wife 30 years ago when he walked into a medical center where Cheryl Silvonek was a receptionist. After working up the courage to ask her out, David Silvonek said what followed was a full and loving life with marriage, two kids and a home.

Cheryl Silvonek’s family displayed this collage of photos at the sentencing of her killer, Caleb Barnes. Pictured is Cheryl Silvonek, her husband David, and their two kids, Jamie and Alex. Jamie Silvonek pleaded guilty for her role in her mother’s killing. (Sarah Cassi | lehighvalleylive.com)

“I now realize at times I took her for granted,” he said, speaking before a photo collage of the family from when Jamie was a little girl. “Losing Cheryl is much more than being without a wife and friend … the loss of Cheryl is like the loss of my life … she can never be replaced.”

Peggy Lynn, Cheryl Silvonek’s mother, would drive down from Jim Thorpe during the week to help out her daughter’s family and watch the children while both parents worked.

Lynn said she still goes to the family’s home during the week, but when she walks inside she endures the fresh pain of her daughter’s absence.

When she thinks about Cheryl Silvonek’s last moments of life, Lynn said she is tortured by the thought of “the pain, the horror, the terrible struggle she put up to survive.”

Prosecutor speaks of victim’s selflessness

Senior Deputy District Attorney Jeff Dimmig became emotional in court as he described learning about Cheryl Silvonek’s life.

As he investigated the Upper Macungie Township woman’s killing, Dimmig said he kept seeing all the ways she sacrificed — for her family, her friends, even her co-workers.

“This was just an exceptional person, but especially a self-sacrificing person,” he said. “In my mind that’s what today is about, is to remember Cheryl Silvonek and honor her memory.”

Like so many working mothers, Cheryl Silvonek was on the move from the moment she woke up every day, the prosecutor said.

Dimmig said he thought Jamie Silvonek was lying when she said her mother went shopping at 11:30 the night she was killed. But Dimmig said he learned that Cheryl Silvonek would go out that late — “that’s the time she could find to get the most done.”

“This life touched so many people. This woman cared about others,” Dimmig said.

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