Prosecutors allege former Central Texas pastor killed wife, made multiple advances toward other women

By Tommy Witherspoon

Tribune-Herald staff writer

Waco Tribune-Herald

January 6, 2010

McLennan County prosecutors intend to show that former Central Texas Baptist minister Matt Baker not only killed his wife but was having an affair and made improper sexual advances toward at least a dozen other young women, including two of his wife’s cousins.

Baker also removed a computer from the Waco Center for Youth two months after his wife Kari’s death and downloaded pornography on a computer at Crossroads Baptist Church while he served as pastor in 2005 and 2006, according to a notice alerting Baker’s attorneys of evidence prosecutors intend to present at Baker’s trial next week.

Baker, 38, former chaplain at the Waco Center for Youth, is charged with murder in the April 2006 death of his 31-year-old wife and the mother of his two daughters. Prosecutors Crawford Long and Susan Shafer allege that Baker drugged Kari with a combination of sleeping pills and alcohol and then smothered her with a pillow or another object after she passed out.

Judge Ralph Strother of Waco’s 19th State District Court has scheduled a pretrial hearing in Baker’s case for Monday afternoon. Jury selection is set to start Tuesday morning, and Strother said he expects prosecution testimony to begin Wednesday morning.

The trial is expected to last a week and a half to two weeks, the judge said.

Baker, who has given multiple media interviews since his arrest, has denied that he killed his wife and has claimed that she was suffering from depression and killed herself while he was running late-night errands in Hewitt. He also has denied having an affair with Vanessa Bulls, a former member of Crossroads Baptist Church.

A McLennan County grand jury indicted Baker in March after Bulls’ testimony, for which she was granted testimonial immunity.

Witnesses have told authorities that Kari Baker suspected that Baker was having an affair and was afraid that he would try to kill her after she found a powdery substance in a bottle in his briefcase. Another witness reported that she spotted Baker and Bulls looking at engagement rings at a Waco mall just days after his wife’s death.

Baker, who is free on bail and has since moved back to his hometown, Kerrville, has said that he and Bulls were looking at earrings for his daughters, not engagement rings.

The prosecution notice alleges that Baker and Bulls had an affair from Feb. 15, 2006, to July 30, 2006.

The notice also alleges that Baker attempted to sexually assault a woman in Kerrville in January 1992 and then made “sexual advances” toward the same woman on the phone in July 2004.

Baker, according to court records, “assaulted” a woman in Waco in December 1991; made a “sexual approach” to another woman in July 1994 in Waco; made another “sexual approach” toward a minor in Waco in July 1994; and “kissed and sexually approached” another minor in Waco in August 1994.

According to the notice, Baker also made “sexual advances” toward another woman in May 1996 in Waco; made “sexual advances” toward a woman in January 1996 in Waco; and made “sexual advances” toward six other women, including two of Kari’s cousins and two other minors, from September 1995 to April 2006.

The notice involving the computer at the Waco Center for Youth refers to allegations that Baker conducted computer research regarding “overdose by sleeping pills” and sleeping pill brands on his computer at work and then switched his computer with co-worker Keith Lowrey when Kari Baker’s parents, James and Linda Dulin, sought to have Kari Baker’s body exhumed because they didn’t believe she committed suicide.