Wednesday, October 24, 2007
By Tommy Witherspoon
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A state district judge cut former Baptist minister Matt Baker’s bail bond in half Tuesday after an agreement between Baker’s attorney and a McLennan County prosecutor.
Judge Matt Johnson of Waco’s 54th State District Court signed an agreed order to reduce Baker’s bail bond from $400,000 to $200,000. The reduction and a generous loan from a family friend should allow Baker to be released and reunited with his two daughters, who have been staying with his parents in Kerrville since his Sept. 21 arrest.
Baker, 36, was arrested for murder in the April 2006 death of his 31-year-old wife, Kari, a teacher at Spring Valley Elementary School in Hewitt. Her death initially was ruled a suicide by overdose of sleeping pills until her parents, James and Linda Dulin, persuaded Hewitt police to reopen the investigation and exhume her body for autopsy.
Matt Baker Baker’s attorney, former Jasper County District Attorney Guy James Gray, filed a motion for habeas corpus last week, challenging the evidence under which Baker was being held. Johnson had scheduled a hearing on that motion for Friday afternoon, but Baker’s release after the bond reduction will negate the need for the hearing, court officials said. Baker’s release also removes pressure from the district attorney’s office to get Baker indicted within 90 days of his arrest in a death with an “unknown” official cause and evidence that is largely circumstantial.
Defendants who remain in jail for 90 days without being indicted are entitled by statute to a personal recognizance bond or one that is drastically reduced.
Crawford Long, first assistant district attorney for McLennan County, said he never considered the 90-day rule when agreeing to the bond reduction.
“We agreed to have the bond set at $200,000, at which it was originally set, which we believed was proper under the state and case law,” Long said.
McLennan County Justice of the Peace Frank Culpepper doubled Baker’s bond to $400,000 after Baker was returned to Waco from Kerr County. The original bail was set in Kerr County, where Baker had been substitute teaching at Tivy High School in Kerrville. He has since been removed from the substitute teachers list. Gray said he is unsure what his client will do now.
Gray, who made an unsuccessful run for the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2004, moved to Kerrville three years ago. He said a Baker family friend from Comfort made arrangements through a bank in Hewitt to post a cash bond to ensure Baker’s release. “He should be out later today or maybe tomorrow,” Gray said Tuesday morning. “He has a number of followers here in Kerrville who have volunteered to help him.”
Linda Dulin, who met with Long on Tuesday morning about the case, said she is not disappointed that the bond was reduced. “We were told that bond is typically reduced upon the request of the defense attorney,” she said. “My husband and I realize that this is how the system works. I trust that Mr. Long will take this to the grand jury as soon as he is able to do so.” The Dulins and other family members and friends have said they never believed that Kari Baker committed suicide.
An exhumation of the body, autopsy and inquest by McLennan County Justice of the Peace Billy Martin failed to determine a cause of death but persuaded Martin to change his ruling from suicide to undetermined.
An affidavit to support Baker’s arrest alleges that Baker was having an affair and drugged his wife with sleeping pills before suffocating her with a pillow.
Gray said he never agreed to reduce a murder defendant’s bond during 25 years as Jasper County district attorney but did so for a number of other defendants.
“I don’t think I should speak for the district attorney’s office,” Gray said. “On our side, we are ready. I’ll go to trial next Monday if they give me a jury. What they do on their side is going to be their business.”
Baker spent part of his time in jail tutoring other inmates in algebra to help them toward obtaining their general educational development certificates, Gray said.
“Looks like they will have to try to get along without his help now,” Gray said. “I need him here to help prepare this case.”
Article from Kerrville's DailyTimes.com:
Baker's Bond Cut in Half
The Daily Times - Published October 24, 2007
A $400,000 bond for a 36-year-old Kerrville man accused of murdering his wife was reduced Tuesday and arrangements were being made to get him out of a jail in Waco. Matthew Dee Baker’s bond was reduced to $200,000. The former Kerrville substitute teacher and Baptist preacher should be reunited with his parents and two daughters before the weekend, said Baker’s attorney, Guy James Gray. If Baker is indicted by a grand jury, Gray said he plans to push for a speedy trial. “I believe this boy has been railroaded,” said Gray, a local lawyer and former district attorney in East Texas. “I’m ready to go anytime.” Baker’s mother, Barbara, said she wanted him out “yesterday.” The worst part of the ordeal has been watching he and his two daughters being separated, Barbara Baker said. “Not being able to watch Matt with his girls,” she said. “I’d like to hug him and watch him hug them.” Matthew Baker was arrested after a wrongful death lawsuit turned into a criminal charge of murder. He has been jailed for more than a month.
A warrant alleged Baker in April 2006 subdued his wife with a concoction of alcohol and sleeping pills and then smothered her with a pillow or similar object. Her death had been ruled a suicide, but later was changed to “undetermined.” Kari Lynn Baker was 31 years old when she died. The couple had been married for more than a decade and had three children, but the family dynamics seemed to change when they lost a 16-month-old daughter to cancer.About three months after Kari Lynn Baker’s death, her parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against their late daughter’s husband. Matthew Baker is a Kerrville native and graduate of Tivy High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University and a master’s degree from George W. Truitt Theological Seminary at Baylor. He was Baptist preacher at a church near Waco and a minister in a youth center. After his wife’s death, he returned to Kerrville and worked as a substitute teacher for the Kerrville Independent School District.Barbara Baker said her son is a beloved “pied piper,” who could make fun activities out of menial chores, such as raking leaves. He also is an excellent parent, she said, noting observations since his daughters have been in her care. No one who knows her son believes he could’ve been responsible for his wife’s death, Barbara Baker said. Instead, she has received an outpouring of support from teachers who worked with him, fellow classmates and students he taught.
“I would say hundreds,” Barbara Baker said of the cards and calls. “In 11 years of marriage, he never said one negative thing about his wife or in-laws. The truth will come out, and we’ll be able to get on with our lives.”