What Happened To The Man Who Abducted Carlesha Gaither?

It really is everyone's nightmare scenario. Imagine saying, "Okay, see you later" to a loved one, going about your business like usual, fully expecting schedules to unfold precisely as planned, and then ... nothing. The person is just gone. There's no message, no follow-up, no accident — just nothing. In the United States, the number of missing persons has actually gone down in recent decades, as Statista shows, but still reached almost 550,000 in 2022. Some of these people will show up in a matter of hours. Some will vanish for years. And some few, like 22-year-old Carlesha Freeland-Gaither, will be captured on video being dragged down the street by an assailant and tossed in a car that speeds off.

That's exactly what happened on November 2, 2014, at 9:40 p.m. in Philadelphia, as ABC News originally reported. Black-and-white surveillance footage shows Freeland-Gaither screaming as her assailant drags her to a car. She drops her phone and glasses. Something shatters the passenger-side rear window of the car. The United States Attorney's Office later said that Freeland-Gaither hit her attacker in the head with a hammer. But in the end, she was abducted.

Freeland-Gaither, however, was luckier than many. Special agents tracked the kidnapper's car and found both Freeland-Gaither and Barnes in a shopping center parking lot in Maryland only three days later, on November 5. It took almost a year and a half for her abductor, then 38-year-old Delvin Barnes, to receive a 35-year prison sentence. As the Federal Bureau of Prisons says, Barnes is currently serving his sentence at FCI Herlong in California.

Serving his sentence at FCI Herlong

While we don't know any specifics about Delvin Barnes' life behind bars, we can glean some information based on the facility where he's serving his sentence: FIC Herlong. As the institution's website says, Herlong is a medium-security prison housing 1,480 inmates, all of whom are men. The facility generally accepts visitors, but as of the time of this article's writing it does not. The facility's handbook devotes most of its pages to listing penalties for variously prohibited actions, including obvious acts like theft and less obvious acts like "failing to stand count" or displaying insolence to prison staff. The handbook also mentions inmate access to legal counsel, health care, reading materials, vocational programs, etc.

In other words, Barnes is living out his life in a fairly stringent prison environment. Zoukis Consulting Group describes experiences in medium security prisons as varying greatly depending on the facility — life can either be harsh and violent, or somewhat mild. Such facilities are typically crowded, have reinforced perimeters with guard towers and barbed wire fences, have a high staff-to-inmate ratio, and so forth. Cells are small, often house multiple people, have steel desks and beds bolted to the wall, and contain combined toilet-sink units. Seventy-five percent of inmates have a history of violence and typically get allocated to medium security facilities if they have between 20 and 30 years left on their sentence. Barnes, per the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is set to be released in 2044.

A history of violence

As NBC Philadelphia writes, Delvin Barnes' stated motivation was nothing more complicated than money, and the decision of a victim was random. "It was an act of robbery in the beginning, and it turned into other things," he said. Barnes claimed he wanted money so he could travel to Virginia to visit his daughter before heading to court to deal with other, earlier charges. However, CNN reported that Barnes used Carlesha Freeland-Gaither's ATM card to get money in Aberdeen, Maryland, and then didn't let her go.

Moreover, NBC Philadelphia tells us that Barnes confessed to another crime as part of his plea deal — a crime that shows precisely how fortunate Freeland-Gaither was that federal agents found her within three days of her abduction. That crime involved another opportunistic kidnapping — that time, of a 16-year-old girl. Barnes hit the teen in the head with a shovel and put her in his trunk before taking her to the mobile home where he lived, according to the Los Angeles Times. He raped her, tossed bleach and gasoline on her (for which she suffered burns that required hospital treatment), and started digging an actual grave for her. While he was digging her grave she ran away, naked, two miles down the road to find help.

As of 2024, there's no mention of whether or not Barnes is up for parole before his release in 2044. He'll turn 67 years old that year.