Daniel Baker found guilty but mentally ill in beating death of ex-girlfriend’s mom
BY BETH KRAMER Sun-Times Media firstname.lastname@example.org November 5, 2012 11:36AM
Updated: December 7, 2012 6:13AM
A Deerfield man who flew into a rage against his girlfriend’s mother and beat her to death with a baseball bat was found guilty but mentally ill Monday.
Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes, however, did not find that Daniel Baker, 24, was legally insane when he bludgeoned Marina Aksman to death.
That means Baker now faces 20 years to life in prison for the 2010 slaying.
“This court finds the defendant was simply acting in a blind rage, not insanity,” Shanes said. “This court finds the defendant clearly has his share of mental challenges ... but that alone does not find him insane.”
Defense attorneys Ed Genson and Blaire Dalton unsuccessfully sought a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity in the bench trial. Baker waived his right to a jury when the trial started Oct. 16.
“Insanity means [a defendant] is so mentally ill, he could not understand wrong,” Assistant State’s Attorney Ari Fisz said. “Guilty, but mentally ill, means he had a substantial disorder that impaired his judgment that day but didn’t rise to the level of insanity.”
Baker was diagnosed with a plethora of mental issues, according to two psychiatrists who testified during the trial. Although Dr. Stafford Henry, who testified for the state, and Dr. Alexander Obolsky, who testified for the defense, disagreed on the severity of Baker’s disorders, both said he had more than one. Diagnoses included borderline personality disorder (or traits of the disorder), obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome.
Baker was dating Aksman’s developmentally disabled daughter, Kristina Aksman, for several months. Baker had reportedly brought Kristina Aksman home after curfew more than once. They also took a trip together that ended with Kristina Aksman’s hospitalization.
On March 31, 2010, Aksman left Baker a voice message in which she called him “bipolar” and forbade him from having further contact with her daughter.
“This message triggered a homicidal rage in Mr. Baker,” Shanes said.
Not long after listening to that message, in the early hours of April 1, 2010, Baker grabbed an aluminum baseball bat “for protection” and drove to Aksman’s home. He crashed his car into the front step of their house, smashed a window in the rear of the home and hit Marina with the baseball bat at least 10 times, according to court testimony.
“It is apparent that she suffered from a repeated and prolonged beating. What the defendant did was vicious and barbaric,” Shanes said.
Baker fled the state with Kristina Aksman following the murder, staying near the Canadian border. He was apprehended in Montana for speeding and fleeing from police. He gave Waukegan Police Lt. Charles Schletz, a member of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, a confession during a five-hour interrogation, which was part of the evidence presented at trial.
Genson had unsuccessfully sought to suppress the recording on the grounds that Baker was “of unsound mind” during the questioning. Genson said Monday that statement was what “made the whole case.”