A convicted murderer was resentenced in Island County Superior Court last week after his conviction was appealed without his knowledge or consent.
Fake cryogenicist and former pizza business owner Robert “Allan” Baker was convicted three years ago of murdering his wife, 53-year-old Kathie Baker, at their Greenbank home in order to get her out of the way for a visiting girlfriend. He was sentenced to 52 years in prison.
Last Thursday, Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock handed him the very same sentence, as expected.
Baker, 66, has accepted his guilt, knows he will die in Walla Walla prison and didn’t want to put his late wife’s family through an appeal, defense attorney Steve McKay said. Baker didn’t even appear at the hearing at his own request. He didn’t want to lose privileges he earned at the prison by leaving to go to Island County for a pointless hearing, McKay said.
Robert and Kathie Baker met in the Antarctic at a station for scientific study. They lived in Greenbank and owned Harbor Pizza in Freeland. Deputies started investigating after Katie Baker’s employer reported her missing in June of 2012 and eventually found her tarp-wrapped body in a ravine in their backyard.
The prosecutor’s office discovered that Baker spent five years in prison in California for child molestation, a fact he hid from his wife and employer. Investigators could find no evidence that he had a college degree, although he presented himself as an expert in cryogenics.
Baker met a woman in the Antarctic when his wife wasn’t there and started a relationship with her, telling the woman he and his wife were separated. He invited the woman to the Greenbank home when he thought his wife would be gone, but it turned out that she was going to be there.
Baker struck his wife in the head with a hammer and strangled her in their bed. He dragged her body through the house, leaving a bloody trail that deputies noticed while investigating the disappearance.
Kathie Baker’s family and friends described her as a kind, loving woman who was also a respected scientist. She was loyal to her husband and had no idea who he really was, they said.
“When Kathie went to sleep that last and final time, she had no idea she was living with a monster,” Chief Criminal Prosecutor Eric Ohme said at sentencing.
In Oct. 15, 2013, a jury found Baker guilty of first-degree murder with aggravating factors. His attorney, Tom Pacher, did not show up at the sentencing hearing and gave no explanation, which McKay described as “astonishing” in court papers. Instead, attorney Matt Montoya, who was completely unfamiliar with the case, was summoned to act as stand-in counsel.
Montoya met with Baker, who did not want sentencing continued and directed Montoya to make no argument on his behalf. Montoya complied, saying “no argument at this time” during the sentencing hearing.
Montoya filed a notice of appeal, which is standard after someone is convicted of murder at trial.
The problem was that no one told Baker, who didn’t want his conviction appealed. Baker didn’t find out about it until he was contacted by an appellate defense attorney.
Because there is nothing in court records explaining the lack of argument on Baker’s behalf, the appellate court remanded for resentencing based on ineffective assistance of counsel.