A 62-year-old pizza man and Antarctic scientist accused of killing his wife and dumping her tarp-wrapped body behind their Greenbank home will remain in jail on $5 million bail after the prosecution exposed him as a sex offender.
Robert “Al” Baker’s trial was also moved to July 16, at the request of the prosecution. He was originally scheduled to go to trial Feb. 25 on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, 53-year-old Kathie Baker. The couple owned Harbor Pizzeria in Freeland and they were well known in the community. They were both also scientists with ties to government programs in Antarctica.
Baker appeared in court Monday, looking much different than he had previously. His white beard has grown long while he’s been in jail over the last seven months.
Baker’s attorney, Tom Pacher of Coupeville, asked the judge to reduce Baker’s bail to $50,000. He said that circumstances have changed since Baker’s bail was originally set at $5 million. He pointed out that Baker’s assets are all tied up in court after his wife’s family invoked the “slayer statute” to prevent him from profiting from the alleged murder of his wife.
In addition, Pacher argued that Baker could help with his own defense if he was out of jail and had access to legal materials. Plus, Baker is willing to relinquish his passport.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme, on the other hand, argued that Baker’s bail should remain extraordinarily high. Ohme said he’s been able to uncover information about Baker’s criminal background since the original bail hearing which shows that the pizza man is dangerous and at risk of fleeing if released from jail.
Baker is a convicted sex offender, though he somehow was able to work for Raytheon and Lockheed Martin as part of the United States Antarctic Program. He met both his late wife and alleged love interest through his work at the South Pole. Court documents written by Baker’s former attorney state that he is “an internationally recognized expert in cryogenics,” the study of materials at very low temperatures.
According to Ohme, Baker was arrested in Cloverdale, Calif., in May 1991 on suspicion of 10 felony sex crimes. He was convicted six months later on three counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. His victim was his stepdaughter. Baker was sentenced to five years in prison, with four years suspended.
In September of 1992, a warrant was issued for Baker after he violated probation by failing to register as a sex offender, according to Ohme. He was arrested in Bend, Ore., two months later and extradited back to California. He was ordered to serve the four-year suspended sentence.
Baker was released from prison in February of 1997. Ten years later, he married Kathie.
Ohme said Baker also violated a court order by contacting his alleged former mistress, who is a witness in the case. Baker was supposed to split a $10,000 cashier check with his late wife’s trust. Instead, he mailed it to the woman in Alaska with a personal note.
“He’s an extreme risk of flight and poses an extreme risk of committing a violent offense,” Ohme said. “He has shown he does not respect and will not follow court orders.”
Ohme said he could have asked to have Baker’s bail revoked altogether, but it seemed pointless because it was already at $5 million.
In the end, Judge Alan Hancock agreed with the prosecution and maintained the bail at $5 million.
Court documents indicate that Baker has hired a mental health expert to explore the possibility of a defense based on insanity or diminished capacity.
Kathie Baker was last seen alive June 2, 2012. Deputies with the Island County Sheriff’s Office started investigating her disappearance after Kathie’s boss at Raytheon Corporation in Denver reported that he couldn’t get hold of her.
After finding bloody drag marks in the house and getting contradictory stories from Baker about his wife’s whereabouts, detectives obtained a search warrant for the home and called in the state patrol’s Crime Scene Response Team to help process the scene, according to court documents. Baker was arrested June 9.
Kathie’s body, wrapped in a tarp, was found in a ravine near their home. Her cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head and ligature strangulation. Investigators found a ball-peen hammer with hair stuck to it in a garbage can in the garage.
A detective’s report on the case indicates that the motive for the alleged murder may have been another woman. Baker’s alleged mistress was staying with him at his Greenbank home soon after Kathie was murdered, court documents state.