Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Coupeville, WA: Man jailed in wife's death

COUPEVILLE -- A Whidbey Island man was ordered jailed Monday on $5 million bail in connection with the beating and strangulation death of his wife.

An Island County judge found probable cause to hold Robert A. Baker for investigation of first-degree murder. Baker, 61, was arrested over the weekend after investigators found his wife's body down a small ravine behind a woodshed outside the couple's Greenbank home.

Kathie A. Baker, 53, had been dead for at least three days, according to a police affidavit filed Monday.

She died of a head injury, likely from a ball-peen hammer. Detectives found a hammer in a garbage can in the couple's garage. She also had been strangled.

Prosecutors on Monday requested a significant amount of bail for the suspect in part because of his international contacts and financial resources. Robert Baker is a scientist who works for stretches of time in Antarctica. He owns houses in Greenbank and Colorado, according to prosecutors. He also owns a pizzeria on Whidbey Island.

On Thursday, Island County sheriff's deputies were asked to check on Kathie Baker after an employee with the Raytheon Corporation in Colorado was concerned that she hadn't checked in. The man told investigators that Kathie Baker telecommutes from her home and usually checks in several times a week.

Deputies spoke with Robert Baker, who allegedly told them that his wife had flown to Denver for work June 3. He didn't seem concerned that his wife's employer hadn't heard from her, court papers said.

During that visit, deputies noticed a woman in the home, whom Baker identified as a friend.

A detective returned to the home the next day after Kathie Baker's employer confirmed that she hadn't checked in all week and wasn't scheduled for training there or at any other site. She also hadn't used her company credit card.

Robert Baker stopped answering questions but not before he gave investigators "improbable stories" about his wife's whereabouts, police wrote in court papers.

Investigators searched the house and noticed what appeared to be drag marks from the living room to the garage. They found blood on the carpet and mattress in the master bedroom.

Blood stains also were discovered in the garage, court papers said. That's were detectives found a ball-peen hammer in a garbage can. There was hair on the hammer that appeared consistent with the victim's hair.

Kathie Baker's body was found wrapped in a tarp and bound with rope and bungee cords. It appeared that she'd been dragged from the garage and pushed down a small ravine.

The woman identified as Robert Baker's friend reportedly told detectives that she arrived from Alaska on June 3. She told investigators that the suspect made it clear that he wanted a romantic relationship with her. He had told the woman that his wife hadn't lived in the house since March, court papers said.

The woman said she'd known the couple for several years through their work in Antarctica. She told them that Robert Baker had visited her in Alaska in March and May. He later gave a her an airline ticket to visit him on Whidbey Island.

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