Baker’s attorney: Vernon Hills murder ‘tragic, perfect storm’
BY DAN ROZEK firstname.lastname@example.org October 16, 2012 7:30PM
Updated: November 18, 2012 6:51AM
Enraged that Marina Aksman was trying to end his romance with her daughter, Daniel Baker first left a menancing message on her answering machine, Lake County prosecutors said as Baker’s murder trial opened.
“Now there’s going to be big trouble,” prosecutor Patricia Fix said, quoting the message Baker left early on April 1, 2010. “Now it’s over. You don’t mess with Daniel Baker.”
Minutes later, Baker followed up on his threat, ramming his car into the front of the 50-year-old Aksman’s Vernon Hills home, Fix said.
The 24-year-old Baker used an aluminum 34-inch baseball bat to smash his way into the house, then followed a fleeing Aksman into her bedroom, where he beat the 5-foot-2 woman to death with the bat.
“The force of the blows eliminated her face,” Fix told Judge Daniel Shanes, who is hearing the trial without a jury.
The beating was so severe a pathologist found one of Aksman’s teeth driven into her brain. Investigators discovered another tooth knocked into a nearby closet, Fix said.
After the slaying, Baker calmly told his girlfriend, 20-year-old Kristina Aksman, to pack some clothes, Fix said and then drove off with her in her dead mother’s car — “taking the sole eyewitness to this horrible murder.”
Baker’s attorney argued the Deerfield man was insane at the time of the killing, hearing non-existent voices and “paranoid” that Kristina Aksman’s father, Robert, wanted to harm him.
Baker took the bat with him to the family’s home for his own protection and because he believed his girlfriend was endangered by her own parents, defense attorney Edward Genson said.
Baker has a long history of psychological problems that included bipolar illness and depression — and those were compounded by his mother’s recent re-marriage and the apparent end of his relationship with Kristina Aksman, Genson said.
“It was a tragic, perfect storm,” said Genson, who had argued as recently as Monday that Baker was not mentally fit to stand trial for the killing.
Shanes, though, ruled Baker fit to stand trial and honored his request to forgo having a jury decide his fate.
Baker acted unusually during the early part of his trial, at times leaning forward to loudly question Genson and co-counsel Blaire Dalton about the proceedings. At one point, he apologized for questioning the attorneys, telling them, “I’m sorry, I’ll shut up.”
Later, Baker leaned back in his chair, rested his head on a low wall and closed his eyes for several minutes.