crimesider

Will Preacher Matt Baker Get Life for Killing Wife? Erin Moriarty Blogs from Court

(CBS)
(CBS)
(AP Photo/ Waco Tribune Herald)
(AP Photo/ Waco Tribune Herald)
(AP Photo/Waco Tribune-Herald)
WACO, Texas (CBS) When the guilty verdict was read in the Waco, Texas court late Wednesday, Matt Baker reacted much the same way as he has for the two and a half years I have known him: with little expression or reaction.

Photo: Matt Baker listens in Waco, Texas court Jan. 19, 2010, as ex-mistress tells jury he planned to kill wife.

I have interviewed him and his lead defense attorney, Guy James Gray, extensively since the fall of 2007. Baker has always insisted that his wife Kari committed suicide in the late hours of April 7, 2006 because she was despondent over the death of their daughter Kassidy seven years earlier. He stuck with that story even as we learned more about the case and confronted him with numerous inconsistencies we found in his story.

Photo: Matt and Kari Baker.

The prosecutor, Susan Shafer, raised many of those same inconsistencies (even running portions of my interview) at his trial that began last week.

Initially, Baker told me that he was shocked when police came into his home and found what appeared to be a typed suicide note. However, when you listen to the tape of the call Baker made to 911, you hear him volunteering to the operator that his wife had committed suicide and left a note.

Photo: Vanessa Bulls testifies in 19th District court on Jan. 19, 2010, in Waco, Texas.

Baker also told different accounts about the events of that evening. Baker said he found his wife dead in their bedroom after he had returned from getting gas and renting a movie. In one interview with 48 Hours | Mystery, Baker told me his wife Kari was asleep when he left. In another interview, he said she was awake and talking. He told me that Kari had locked their bedroom door while he was gone and that he had to use a screwdriver to open the door when he returned. He told police that the locked door was the one that connected the garage to the kitchen.

Photo: Matt Baker waits in the 19th District Court during his murder trial, Jan. 20, 2010 in Waco, Texas.

There was one issue on which Baker was always consistent: he denied that he had a girlfriend. In every conversation and interview, Baker insisted that he was just friends with Vanessa Bulls, a young, single mother who was a member of his congregation. He claimed that he did not become involved with Bulls sexually until months after his wife's death. We know now that Baker consistently lied.

Photo: Matt Baker shown in a video during his trial inside Judge Ralph Strother's 19th District courtroom, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010, in Waco, Texas.

When his murder trial began, his own attorney admitted in his opening statement that Baker began an affair with Bulls more than a month before Kari's death. And all doubts were laid to rest, when Vanessa Bulls herself took the stand.

As much as I thought I knew the details, I was unprepared for and shocked by the details that Bulls, now 27 years old, gave to the jury. She testified that Baker had planned his wife's death for more than a month by ordering chloroform online and obtaining the sleeping medication, Ambien. She said that Baker had also considered faking his wife's death by hanging, arranging for a drive-by shooting or tampering with the brakes in his wife's car.

The most chilling details by far are ones that Bulls says Baker told her of the night of Kari's death: According to Bulls, Baker told her that he tricked his wife into taking sleeping medication by telling her it was a sexual enhancement pill. Undressing his wife, he handcuffed her to the bed and pretended to romance her until she fell asleep. It was at that point, Ms. Bulls told the jury, Baker tried to smother his wife. When he removed the pillow initially, his wife moved and gasped for air. Baker panicked, Bulls said, and placed the pillow again over his wife's face, putting pressure over her nose, until Baker was satisfied that his wife was dead.

Baker, himself, never took the stand during his trial, but the jury heard from him anyway. The prosecution used portions of the interviews I did, as well as a few excerpts from an ABC report and parts of a deposition that Matt Baker did when he was sued for wrongful death by his in-laws - a suit that was dropped after Baker was indicted and charged with murder.

As part of his closing argument, Baker's attorney Gray admitted to the jury that his client had lied, but that they should disregard Vanessa Bulls because she was a liar too and was "not worthy of belief."

The jury did not take his advice. After seven hours of deliberation, they found him guilty of murder.

Today, those same jurors will decide Baker's fate.

In the morning, Baker, who spent the night in jail after his bail was revoked, appeared disheveled in court, wearing the same shirt he had worn the day before. He sat through more damaging testimony - testimony from women who say that Matt Baker approached them sexually while his wife was alive.

Stephanie Sanders said that when she was a teenager, Baker had approached her in 1996 at the local Y-M-C-A, touching her breast. He tried to touch her crotch until she stopped him. There was also testimony from a computer expert who said he found porn on the computer Baker used at a youth center where he was employed.

The testimony is expected to last most of the day. The jury can either give him probation or a life sentence. What will not be decided today is the fate of his two daughters: Kinzi and Grace. They have been living with Matt Baker and his mother, Barbara, in Kerrville, Texas, but it is likely that Kerri's family will dispute custody.



MORE ON CRIMESIDER
January 21, 2010 - Preacher Matt Baker Guilty of Killing Wife; Could Get Life In Prison as Jury Hears New Sex Evidence
January 20, 2010 - Matt Baker Trial: Ex Mistress Vanessa Bulls Says Preacher Killed Wife
January 19, 2010 - Erin Moriarty: Matt Baker Lied to Me, But Did the Texas Preacher Kill His Wife?

MORE ON 48 HOURS | MYSTERY
Click here to learn more about the case.


Erin Moriarty is an attorney and an award-winning correspondent for CBS News. She covered the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine High School shootings and the 9/11 investigation overseas. Moriarty has won nine national Emmy Awards and a 2001 Press Club Award, among others. She is currently covering the Matt Baker murder trial in Waco, Texas for 48 Hours | Mystery, where she has been a correspondent since 1990.

  • Erin Moriarty

    Correspondent, "48 Hours"

Comments

Follow Us