Murder Trial Begins In Case of Waco Minister Accused of Killing His Wife

By: KWTX Email
By: KWTX Email

WACO (January 13, 2010)A church friend testified Wednesday
“there seemed to be a lot of tension” between former Waco pastor Matt Baker, 38, and his wife Kari, on the night before Kari Baker died.

Baker is on trial for death of his wife at the couple's residence in Hewitt on April 8, 2006.

The death initially was ruled a suicide, but in July 2006 McLennan County Justice of the Peace Billy Martin changed his ruling to undetermined, after an autopsy was performed on her exhumed body at the urging of her parents.

Baker is accused of killing Kari Baker and then trying to make the death look like a suicide.

Kimberly Jackson testified Wednesday she saw Kari and Matt at the Waco YMCA on April 7, 2006, the night before the death and said Kari “wasn’t the same that night,” and was crying and seemed irritable.

She said Matt’s body language seemed different as well, as if her were irritated with his wife.

She said she didn’t interfere “because there seemed to be a lot of tension between the two.”

“I felt like I shouldn’t get involved,” she said.

Later Wednesday, paramedic Craig Lot, a Hewitt firefighter and EMT who lived next door to the Bakers, testified he heard the tone-out and realized the call involved his neighbors.

Lott testified Matt Baker was standing outside the front door of the home when he arrived and that Kari Baker was lying on the floor, wearing a T-shirt, panties and a bra.

She wasn’t breathing, Lott testified, and paramedics started CPR.

He testified he did not see any signs of lividity, or pooling of the blood, and said Kari’s body seemed semi-warm to the touch.

Under cross-examination, he said he didn’t see any scratches, bleeding, signs of trauma or anything suspicious from a medical point of view.

Shelton Chapman, who was a paramedic with East Texas Medical Center in 2006, said that when he arrived, other paramedics were performing CPR and that Kari wasn’t breathing.

He said he saw signs of lividity in her ears and the back of her neck and said her hands were blue.

He described her body temperature as cold and said he would not have initiated CPR if he had been the first to arrive.

Earlier Wednesday morning Marla Jaynes, a teacher who worked with Kari Baker, described her as outgoing and said she was upbeat in the days before her death.

A second witness, Basy Barrera, a hairdresser, said Kari was in good spirits shortly before she died and told her she had lost 15 pounds.

In opening statements Wednesday morning, prosecutors said they would present evidence showing that Baker repeatedly changed his story about his wife's suicide note.

Defense attorneys said they would show Kari Baker wrote typed suicide note that was found next to her body along with a bottle of sleeping pills in 2006.

Prosecutors told jurors Wednesday morning there are discrepancies in Baker's story and that from the start his story did not make sense.

Friends and a hairdresser knew something was wrong in the days leading up to Kari's death, prosecutors said.

Prosecutor said that Matt Baker’s alleged ex-girlfriend Vanessa Bulls will testify that she was with Baker before and after Kari’s death and that she was in Kari’s marital bed before the death.

Defense attorney James Gray, however, said Kari Baker suffered from anxiety and depression.

He said in public she presented an image of determination and success, but in private she suffered over the loss of a child.

Gray said Kari battled depression, she knew that Matt was "running around on her" and she dealt with that.

He said Matt and Kari didn't get along and said without dispute, jurors will see that Matt Baker was having an affair with Bulls, the daughter of the church's music director.

Gray said Baker and Bulls lied to their families and lied to cover up their affair.

He said the death was a suicide and that the murder investigation didn’t begin until the family realized Matt Baker was having an affair.

Jury selection was finished late Tuesday afternoon, as an eight-woman, four-man jury was seated to hear the case, along with two alternates.

One of the jurors called in sick Wednesday morning, and was replaced by the male alternate.

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