WACO, Texas (AP) — A former Baptist minister in Texas went on trial Wednesday in the death of his wife, whose body was found next to a typed suicide note and a bottle of sleeping pills.
Matt Baker could face life in prison if convicted of killing his wife Kari, whose 2006 death was initially ruled a suicide. A grand jury indicted him in March, alleging he drugged and suffocated her with a pillow. He denies the charge and allegations that he was having an affair when she died.
Prosecutors began their opening statements Wednesday morning, with defense attorneys scheduled to do so later in the day.
The jury was selected Tuesday, a day after state District Judge Ralph Strother denied a defense request to move the trial to another county. Defense attorneys argued that Baker, 38, could not get a fair trial in Waco because of intense media coverage and “Justice for Kari” bumper stickers on many cars in the area.
Kari Baker was found dead in the couple’s home in Hewitt, a Waco suburb, in 2006. Matt Baker has said she overdosed on sleeping pills and that the 31-year-old elementary school teacher was depressed because one of her daughters died of cancer in 1998.
Kari Baker’s parents never believed his account and urged authorities to reopen the case and perform an autopsy. James and Linda Dulin, along with many of Kari Baker’s friends, said she was not depressed but excited about a new job possibility. They said she would not have killed herself and left behind her two other daughters.
The Dulins hired an investigator to gather evidence for their wrongful death lawsuit against Baker. The investigator gave authorities evidence that Baker allegedly was having an affair and visited Web sites pertaining to sleeping pills and drug overdoses.
As her parents pushed for further investigation, the justice of the peace who had initially ruled Kari Baker’s death a suicide ordered the body exhumed. The death certificate was amended to list the cause as undetermined.
After his wife died, Baker moved with the couple’s two daughters to Kerrville, about 160 miles southwest of Waco, and worked as a high-school substitute teacher.