BREAKING NEWS: Matt Baker sentenced to 65 years in prison - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

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BREAKING NEWS: Matt Baker sentenced to 65 years in prison

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BREAKING NEWS: Matt Baker has been sentenced to 65 years in prison. Baker said he believes he is still innocent and that the jury has made a mistake in this decision. He was accused of killing his wife and trying to cover it up as a suicide.

Jurors deliberated for two hours before imposing the sentence for 38-year-old Baker. He faced from probation to life in prison for slipping his wife sleeping pills and suffocating her in 2006. During closing arguments, prosecutor Crawford Long who previously called Baker a "murdering minister," said he killed his wife in "cold-blooded cruelty" and seemed to take pleasure in getting away with it.

Defense attorney Harold Danford said Baker "did some things he's not proud of" but reminded jurors that Baker is eligible for probation because he had not previously been convicted of a felony.


by Sara Talbert & Staff Updates

WACO - Attorneys for both sides made final arguments to the jury after 2 o'clock this afternoon. Matt Bakers attorney as the jury to give him probation. Prosecutor Crawford Long pointed at Baker and said, "Because of your heartless, soulless actions you deserve the maximum sentence."

The jury is expected to be deliberations on Matt Baker's sentence shortly.

 


 

Several witnesses took the stand Thursday morning in the sentencing phase for former pastor Matt Baker.  They shared aggressive sexual encounters they had with the convicted murderer.

The first person called to testify was woman who worked with Baker in 1996 at the Waco Family YMCA.  She said she was 17 at the time and recalled an incident in which she and Baker were working alone in a room.  She says he came on to her, grabbing her breasts and trying to kiss her.

She also said she didn't report it until six months later, when the YMCA began asking if anyone had similar encounters with Baker.

The second witness asked to testify was a high school classmate of Baker who told jurors they dated in high school.  She said one time while he was visiting home from college, he came on to her at her parents home.   She said she had to use all of her strength to get him off of her.

Finally, a friend of Kari's cousin told jurors that just before the Bakers' daughter Kassidy died, they visited her at Cook's Children's Hospital in Dallas.  She said while waiting for Kari and Kari's cousin, baker approached her in the children's game room.

She said that was the first time she had met him and added he invited her to go to a room he said the hospital provided for parents of terminally ill children, placing his hand on her leg.

Wednesday night, after seven and a half hours into deliberation, the jury in the Matt Baker trial returned a guilty verdict.

They found enough evidence to convict the former pastor for murdering his wife Kari Baker, who Matt drugged and suffocated in 2006.

As Judge Ralph Strother prepared to read the jury's decision, Kari Baker's family and friends braced, tissues in hand, waiting for the verdict.  Nearly all began sobbing upon hearing the word "guilty."

Matt looked stunned.  He expressed no emotion when the verdict was read.  He said nothing as sheriff's deputies escorted him out of the courtroom and took him to the McLennan County Jail.

No parties involved commented after the trial because a gag order is still in effect through the sentencing phase, which begins tomorrow.

Life in prison is the most Baker can get for his crime.  His lawyers have not indicated whether or not they would appeal the verdict.

Vanessa Bulls, who testified to how Baker killed his wife, was placed Wednesday on paid administrative leave from her teaching position in Harker Heights.


 

Seven hours into jury deliberation, Defense Attorney Guy James Gray called for a mistrial. Judge Ralph Strother quickly denying his request. Gray states the jury has been questioning the testimony by Vanessa Bulls concerning a March 30, 2009 interview she had with Detective Rodriguez. Gray said during the trial, he tendered the tape as a prior inconsistent statement. He said the note from the jury shows they are having a question about the inconsistency and now that it's too late to render it into the record, Gray called for a mistrial.  

Strother replied with a stern "denied."

The jury continues to deliberate.


Judge Ralph Strother received a fifth note from jurors this evening. They asked for a transcript of Vanessa Bull's testimony regarding the time she spent with Matt at his daughter's birthday party, just two weeks after Kari's death. The judge said the court could comply with that request but that it would take a significant amount of time to find that information and put it in a transcript form. He also instructed them to continue their deliberations while waiting for the transcript.

The jury is now being fed.


The jury sent out their fourth note just before 7:30 this evening. The note asked Judge Strother if a transcript of Vanessa Bull's entire testimony could be provided to them. The Judge sent them a note stating that could only be done if there was a disagreement among them regarding the testimony and that only the particular section they disagreed on could be provided to them.

The jury also asked for dinner. Judge Strother said he would wait to see what their response was to his note before "providing dinner to the jury at the taxpayer's expense."


Just after 6:30 this evening the jury sent out a third note to Judge Ralph Strother, asking if they could exclude the "suffocation" part of the charges against Matt Baker.

The Judge told them "you need to consider both the rule of law and the charge you were given" in determining guilt or innocence.

Baker was charged with murdering Kari Baker by "administering drugs to her and suffocating her with a pillow," according to the Grand Jury indictment from March of 2009. 


Around 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, the jury began deliberations in the Matt Baker murder trial. If convicted Baker faces up to life in prison.


Defense Attorney Guy James Gray called his first and only witness to the stand shortly after 8:30 Wednesday morning. Brent Watson, a forensic scientist with the Texas Department of Public Safety, testified on the probability of DNA he found on the Unisom bottle and alleged suicide note found at the scene.

After the defense rested their case, the state presented additional evidence of e-mails between Matt and Kari and replayed the 911 tape of the night Kari Baker died.

The judge has released the jury to prepare the court's charge. Closing arguments will follow.

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