Admitted rapist gets 35 years in prison

Published 1:12 am Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SELMA — When Michael Barlow leaves prison he will be 80 years old.

Barlow, 45, was sentenced Tuesday in Circuit Judge Jack Meigs’ courtroom.

Barlow pleaded guilty to rape first-degree, sodomy first-degree and kidnapping first-degree. Other than saying he was pleading of his own free will, Barlow simply said, “I’m sorry.”

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Barlow was sentenced to 35 years per charge, but the sentences will be served concurrently. He does not have a chance for parole.

“On Nov. 27, 2005, the victim was jogging from [2900 block of Dallas Avenue] to Bloch Park,” said Selma Police Detective Sandra Washburn, who headed up the investigation of the case. “Her father reported her missing because after several hours of being gone she did not answer her phone.”

The victim’s father found her car. Her purse was inside. Family and friends began searching for her.

Later the victim told police she first saw Barlow near the bleachers of the tennis court.

She ran past him and looked back after a little distance. She noticed he was walking behind her at a fast pace.

The victim ducked into the cemetery and circled back again. When she didn’t see Barlow she ran back onto Rowell Drive.

She continued running onto Marina Drive and to the bridge. She turned around and saw Barlow standing behind her.

When she got to the end of the bridge near where he was standing, Barlow grabbed her, pulled her down to the creek bank and told her he had a gun and would kill her.

After four to five hours of captivity, Barlow told the victim to wait by a nearby tree for 20 minutes. She waited for a few minutes and ran towards Dallas Avenue, where someone searching for her found her and took her to safety.

The victim was able to tell police where the rape occurred and that Barlow’s jacket and cigarettes would still be there. Officers were able to locate all the evidence including the victim’s iPod where she had been pulled off the road.

A sexual assault kit was performed and the kit was sent to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. A DNA profile was developed and searched through the database. The lab received a hit and the person that was matched was Michael Barlow.

The DNA hit was not enough to confirm without a doubt that the offender was Barlow so Judge Tommy Jones ordered him to give saliva. When the results came back it was a match.

Washburn believed it was Barlow from the second she laid eyes on him. She had seen his face before and not just because of his extensive prior criminal history.

Washburn had Barlow’s picture hanging behind her desk from Dec. 2, 2005. The picture wasn’t a photograph, but a sketch artists rendering of what the victim said he looked like.

“When I saw [Barlow] I knew he did it,” she said. “Everything matched except the hairline and the victim said it was more curved than a widow’s peak. I kept that picture up all these years because I wasn’t going to rest until she, the victim, had justice. A lot of people from a lot of agencies worked hard on this.”

Washburn said the police department would get calls from other agencies saying the saw a black male in the area matching the description. All along the man who pleaded guilty to the horrific crimes was in Selma.

“I can’t imagine what that day must have been like,” Washburn said. “I’m glad that he was sentenced to 35 years without parole because for him at his age that is really like a life sentence.”

Barlow received his sentence Tuesday and people involved in the case like Washburn and District Attorney Michael Jackson hope that this can help the victim.

“We are going to keep shipping rapists off to prison for a long time,” Jackson said. “Hopefully this sentence will help the victim in the healing process.”