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Woman testifies how ex-boyfriend beat her mother to death, tried to light her on fire

Daniel Baker

Daniel Baker

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Updated: November 19, 2012 3:15PM

Kristina Aksman said she saw her boyfriend, Daniel Baker, break into her Vernon Hills house then pummel her panicked mother with a baseball bat.

“He hit her on the knee and then on the face,” she said haltingly. “Then she fell on the bed.”

Testifying Wednesday against Baker at his Lake County murder trial, Aksman, 22, described in horrifying detail the beating that killed her mother, Marina Aksman, 50, on April 1, 2010.

“I heard my mom scream for help when he hit her,” Aksman said. She testified that Baker, after beating her mother, grabbed a cigarette lighter and tried to “light her on fire.”

“The lighter didn’t work,” said Aksman, who prosecutors say has developmental disabilities and a low-functioning IQ.

Her dramatic testimony came after another unusual twist in the murder trial. Baker’s attorneys asked for a mistrial, saying Baker no longer wants them to pursue an insanity defense.

Baker instead insisted he wasn’t involved in the murder, asked his lawyers to restart the case and predicted he would be acquitted, defense attorney Edward Genson said.

“It’s impossible to defend him in his present state of mind,” said Genson, who as recently as Monday had argued that Baker, 24, wasn’t mentally fit for trial.

Judge Daniel Shanes, who is hearing the trial without a jury, rejected the mistrial request and allowed Aksman to testify.

After the deadly attack, Aksman said, Baker ordered her to pack some of her clothing and medications, then they drove off in her mother’s SUV. They drove for several days through North Dakota and Montana, Aksman testified. She said Baker talked about ultimately driving into Canada or Mexico.

But her eyewitness account of allegedly watching Baker murder her mother apparently did little to sway his claims that he wasn’t involved in her death.

“I’m not taking the blame,” a handcuffed Baker said loudly to Genson as a deputy escorted him out of the courtroom for lunch. “I wasn’t even in the house when it happened.”

Prosecutors said DNA and other genetic evidence found on the bat and the lighter tie Baker to Marina Aksman’s death.

Baker carried out the attack because he was enraged that Marina Aksman was trying to end his six-month romance with her daughter, prosecutors have said.

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