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Greenbank murder defendant may plead insanity in killing of wife

The attorney representing accused murderer Robert “Al” Baker is exploring a defense of insanity or diminished capacity, court records indicate.Jessie Stensland / Record file | Robert “Al” Baker, accused of murdering his wife Kathie Baker in June 2012, may plea insanity.

Baker is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of his wife, 53-year-old Kathie Baker. The couple owned Harbor Pizzeria in Freeland and were well known in the South Whidbey community. They met while they were both working in Antarctica on a scientific research project.

Baker’s attorney, Tom Pacher of Coupeville, asked a judge for public funds to hire a Seattle psychologist to conduct a sanity and diminished capacity evaluation of Baker. Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock signed the order for the $3,000 expenditure on Dec. 26.

Under a diminished capacity defense, a defense attorney argues that a defendant lacks the ability to form the mental state necessary to commit the charged crime.

Baker was arrested after his wife’s tarp-wrapped body was discovered in a ravine behind his house June 9.

Kathie Baker was last seen alive June 2. Deputies with the Island County Sheriff’s Office started investigating her disappearance after her boss at Raytheon Corporation in Denver reported that he couldn’t get hold of 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 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.

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 blood was on the carpet and her body was in a ravine at the back of the house, court documents state.

The Bakers were married in 2007. They both worked as research scientists in Antarctica.

Court documents written by Baker’s former attorney state that he is “an internationally recognized expert in cryogenics,” the study of materials at very low temperatures. Baker worked as the science support coordinator for the United States Antarctic Program, which is a subcontractor for Lockheed Martin and is governed by the National Science Foundation. He previously worked for Raytheon Polar Services.

The court records state that Baker had a criminal conviction in the early 1990s, but doesn’t say what the crime was.

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