Robert “Al” Baker is in prison for brutally murdering his wife last year.
Now he’s facing a wrongful death lawsuit from his late wife’s niece, who’s acting as personal representative for the estate of Kathie Baker.
This is the second civil action filed against Baker in Island County Superior Court since the murder.
Jami Hill, Kathie Baker’s niece, filed “a petition for a slayer finding” early this year to prevent Baker from inheriting his wife’s property, including her portion of their marital property, or receiving any life insurance from her death.
The family’s attorney, Charles Arndt of Coupeville, said a judge entered an order this week, finding that Baker is a “slayer” under the statute.
The wrongful death lawsuit is aimed at the rest of the marital property.
“We are asking for what she would have earned had she continued her working life,” he said.
Arndt said assets appear to be small, especially when the couple’s debt is factored in.
Judge Alan Hancock sentenced Baker, 63, to 52 years in prison, essentially imprisoning him for the remainder of his life.
The Bakers owned a pizzeria in Freeland at the time of the murder. They both had worked for Raytheon Corporation and spent time together at a research station on the South Pole.
Many members of Kathie Baker’s family and her friends attended the trial early this month as the prosecution laid out evidence that Baker hit his wife in the bed with a hammer and strangled her as she slept in their bed. He wrapped her body in a tarp and hid it in their backyard while his love interest visited from Alaska.
Hill and the rest the family wept and embraced each other after he was sentenced.
Baker originally tried to hire attorney Craig Platt to represent him in the criminal trial. But his assets were frozen by the court after Hill filed the petition, so he ended up being represented by the county’s public defense.
Arndt said the civil cases have been unusual.
According to court documents, Baker had a $10,000 cashier’s check on him when he was arrested for the murder. Arndt said an agreement was reached to split the money between the estate and Baker’s attorney.
But when his attorney presented the check for Baker to sign when he was in jail, he refused to sign and wouldn’t give it back. He later mailed it to his former girlfriend in Alaska, even though she had a protection order against him; she immediately handed it over to the detective, Arndt said.
“That was a pretty big misbehavior,” he said.
After Baker was arrested, the prosecution discovered that Baker was a convicted sex offender who spent five years in prison in California.
Baker claimed he was a physicist, but investigators couldn’t find any evidence that he ever earned a degree.
Arndt said Kathie Baker’s family members are convinced that she knew nothing about this other side of her husband.
They are upset that Raytheon Corporation allowed Baker to work at an isolated station in the Antarctica with a small group of people.
Arndt said Kathie Baker went through extensive background checks to gain security clearance and she no doubt thought Baker went through the same process.