Women say convicted Texas ex-pastor made advances

By ANGELA K. BROWN

Associated Press

San Antonio Express-News

January 21, 2010

WACO — A former Texas minister convicted of killing his wife made unwanted sexual advances toward two women and one said she had to use "all my strength" to fight him off, they testified Thursday in the punishment phase of his trial.

Jurors who convicted Matt Baker late Wednesday heard testimony from the women, who said the incidents happened in the 1990s. Prosecutors were expected to call several women who also allege incidents with Baker.

Baker, convicted of giving his wife sleeping pills, suffocating her and faking her suicide note in 2006, faces anywhere from probation to life in prison.

A woman who dated him for several months in high school testified that she had an innocent yet flirtatious relationship with him that changed one day in the 1990s when she was home from college. She said he was forcible and aggressive.

"I had to use all my strength to keep him off of me and from taking my clothes off," she said.

Another woman said she was 19 and working with Baker at the Waco YMCA when he touched her inappropriately and said he wanted to have sex with her.

"He said he knew that I wanted it," she told jurors.

Prosecutors notified defense attorneys before the trial began that they planned to present evidence that Baker made sexual advances toward other women, including some underage girls, over the past 18 years.

Baker also looked at pornographic Web sites and those for married adults who want to have affairs, Noel Kersh, a computer forensics examiner, testified Thursday. Kersh told jurors Baker viewed the sites on his church-issued laptop and his computer at a youth center where he worked as a chaplain.

But another woman who grew up with Baker, Sharon Rollins, said he never acted inappropriately during their numerous school and church trips. She said he was charming with a sense of humor and sometimes was flirtatious, "but I never took it as an advance."

A member of a Baptist church in Riesel where Baker was pastor several years ago, Jeanne Lehrmann, testified that he was a fine pastor.

"I truly felt that he is a man of God," Lehrmann said, adding that she still felt that way and did not believe much of the evidence at his trial.

Kari Baker's death was originally ruled a suicide, but authorities reopened the case several months later after her parents shared evidence obtained for their wrongful death lawsuit against Baker.

"We did it," a sobbing Linda Dulin, Kari's mother, said late Wednesday as she left the courtroom and embraced relatives and friends.

Baker, 38, did not testify during the trial and showed no emotion when the verdict was read. After the judge revoked his bond, Baker shook his attorney's hand and said "thank you" before a sheriff's deputy took him into custody.

A gag order on attorneys and witnesses was to remain in effect until after sentencing.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Susan Shafer said Baker had told a "web of lies" since his wife's death in their home in Hewitt, a Waco suburb. She said Kari's upbeat e-mails about a new job just before her death contradicted Baker's story that she killed herself because she was depressed over their middle daughter's 1999 cancer death.

Vanessa Bulls, Baker's former mistress, had testified that Baker told her he slipped his wife the prescription sleep aid Ambien, handcuffed her to the bed under the guise of spicing up their marriage, and smothered her with a pillow after she fell asleep. Baker then typed a suicide note and rubbed his wife's lifeless hand over it in case authorities tested for fingerprints, Bulls testified.

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