79-year-old man charged in 1966 Calumet City cold case in which young mom stabbed 120 times

Prosecutors said 2-and-a-half-month-old daughter left undisturbed in bassinet during attack

Maher Kawash Image
Thursday, May 2, 2024
79-year-old man charged in 1966 Calumet City cold case
James Barbier was charged in a nearly 60-year-old cold case; Karen Snider was found stabbed 120 times in a Calumet City home in 1966.

MARKHAM, Ill. (WLS) -- A 79-year-old man has been charged in a nearly 60-year-old cold case in the south suburbs.

James Barbier was charged in the death of 18-year-old Karen Snider in 1966 in Calumet City, police said Thursday.

Barbier was arrested in Missouri earlier this week.

Relatives of Snider, who was a young mother stabbed to death in her home, are speaking out.

They said they believe investigators have the right man.

This is a development that the Snider family has been waiting on for 57 years now.

Barbier returned to court Thursday, after detectives recently uncovered a DNA match to one of the articles of clothing the victim was wearing when the murder happened.

"It was probably one of the best phone calls of my life," said Paula Larson, Snider's daughter.

Larson was just 2-and-a-half-months old when her 18-year-old mother was stabbed to death.

Barbier is charged with first-degree murder in Snider's death.

"Today, I heard the birds chirp louder. The sun was shining brightly, all because we are here," Larson said.

Prosecutors said Snider was stabbed 120 times across her body, while Larson was left unharmed in her bassinet.

Police found Snider about 11:10 p.m. Nov. 12, 1966, in a home in the 400-block of Wilson Avenue.

Larson said Barbier was friends with her parents, and he worked with her father at the railyard.

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He was previously a lead suspect in 1966, when detectives saw him at Snider's funeral, and noticed something unusual.

"The police noticed at the funeral that he had wounds, so he was on their radar then," Larson said.

At the time, there was not enough evidence to charge Barbier, so he was released.

Then, in December of 2022, Calumet City detectives reopened the investigation.

They submitted Snider's preserved clothing for DNA testing, and prosecutors said the blood stains on her dress later revealed a significant likelihood of matching Barbier's DNA.

"My family, my father's side, has always said this is the man," Larson said. "I never thought we would get here. I never thought we would get a DNA match because they didn't have DNA matches back in the day. I'm very thankful the article of clothing were preserved well."

The Pretrial Fairness Act forces prosecutors to consider the age and medical condition of the defendant, so a judge released Barbier Thursday, under certain conditions.

The family is disappointed he'll remain free at home until the trial.

"I can't imagine to see him sitting there, and for 57 years he was free. And my sister's been in the ground, and now we gotta hopefully present a good case, and make sure he pays for what he's done," Snider's brother Bill Neaves said.

But, for now, the family is overjoyed at the possibility of justice prevailing for the murder of their loved one.

Larson recalls the moment she got the call that Barbier was in custody.

"It was the first time that I've felt my father in the room with me, and I think they rested peacefully for the first time," she said.

Barbier is due back in court in Markham on May 21 for his next status hearing.