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Suspected wife killer’s arraignment fails again

The Greenbank man and pizza joint owner accused of killing his wife and hiding her body in a tarp is having trouble retaining an attorney.

Robert “Al” Baker, 62, appeared in court Monday, but left without being arraigned. It was the third time his arraignment has been postponed. He’s facing first-degree murder in the death of his wife, 53-year-old Kathie Baker.

Attorney Tom Pacher, who holds the county’s public defense contract, stood beside him in court and explained that Baker’s “circumstances have changed.” The judge put off the hearing for a week to give Baker the chance to see if he qualifies for public defense, which is for indigent defendants.

Baker was arrested after his wife’s body was discovered in a ravine behind his house June 9. Baker first tried to retain attorney Craig Platt, who has a private practice in Oak Harbor.

Baker’s assets became tied up in court. One of Kathie Baker’s relatives, Jami Hill of Oregon, became the personal representative of her estate. Her attorney, Charles Arndt of Coupeville, filed a petition in Island County Superior Court July 5 for an order protecting the Bakers’ joint assets. Judge Vickie Churchill signed the order July 30.

The motion cites the state’s “slayer statute” as it “applies to deprive Robert Baker of any benefit of decedent’s death.” It lists the joint assets as her life insurance policy, retirement account, their joint checking and savings accounts, their pizza business in Freeland and their home on Silver Cloud Lane in Greenbank.

Platt entered his notice of withdrawal Aug. 10.

A detective’s report on the case indicates that the motive for the murder may have been another woman. A woman from Alaska was staying with Al Baker at his Greenbank home while Kathie’s tarp-wrapped body was in a ravine at the back of the house, court documents state.

Kathie was last seen alive June 2. 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 contact her.

After finding bloody drag marks in the house and getting contradictory stories from Al 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.

Kathie’s body was found June 9. The 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.

The Bakers owned Harbor Pizzeria in Freeland, which has now been closed. The owner of the building has filed a claim against Kathie Baker’s estate for alleged damages and missing equipment.

The Bakers were married in 2007 and aren’t believed to have any children. They both worked as research scientists in Antarctica.

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