Smyrna wife sentenced to 40 years in husband’s poisoning 

 

Jamie L. Baker

DOVER — With a large court audience listening intently Thursday morning, a Smyrna woman received 40 years in prison for fatally poisoning her husband in 2013.

Thirty or more friends and family sat together in Kent County Superior Court for the second-degree murder sentencing of Jamie L. Baker, who was arrested after investigators determined she injected a chemical into two bottles of steroids used by her husband James D. Baker Jr.

The late Mr. Baker died on Sept. 16, 2013, after collapsing in his Smyrna home, and an autopsy later determined that his kidneys contained Ethylene Glycol, a substance found in anti-freeze.

Some family and friends had a brief audible reaction of apparent approval when Judge Robert B. Young first announced his decision, which comes with a mandatory minimum of 15 years incarceration followed by decreasing levels of probation. The original 50-year sentence was suspended after 40 years served.

Restitution was set at $5,000 and an anger-management course completion ordered, along with a mental health evaluation and no contact orders, among other stipulations.

Speaking before the court, Baker took full responsibility for her acts, explaining, “I was not in a right state of mind” and “in a terrifying situation with an extremely abusive man.” She apologized to her daughters and family members present before asking for God’s forgiveness.

Representing the family before the court, Mr. Baker’s sister Peggy Sullenberger characterized the defendant’s remarks as a continuation of living a “life of blame.

“Everything and everyone in her life at one time has been blamed for her actions. We fell prey to her lies, manipulation, and now murder.

“At no time has Jamie ever taken responsibility for these actions … No matter what route Jamie took, she was determined that her loving husband and father of her children were going to die.”

The late Mr. Baker’s family pushed for a life sentence during the roughly 45-minute session.

“Your honor, please give her what she deserves,” the couple’s 12-year-old daughter wrote to the judge.

“Please give her life in prison. She killed my father and she tore me and my sister’s life apart. I don’t want to know she will be getting out of prison.”

Far differing accounts

With roughly 1,500 pages of a pre-sentence report to digest, Judge Young said he’d never seen a case where the positions of both victim and defendant were so “diametrically opposed.” Interviews and records produced far different views on the husband and wife’s roles in the relationship, according to the court.

All evidence pointed to a troubled marriage where problems existed for a considerable time, the judge found. Also, the crime was not a “flare up” of extreme proportions, rather a “deliberated, calculated, long-term siege that was brought to a cruel conclusion,” Judge Young said.

Deputy Attorney General Jason Cohee, who prosecuted the case with Nicole Hartman, pointed to two interviews at the Children’s Advocacy Center where the girls made no mention of fearing their father or suffering from abuse.

Regarding Baker, Mr. Cohee said, “She had every opportunity to make sure he got the help he needed to stay alive. She didn’t do it.”

Investigation found that the late Mr. Baker received the steroids from China in June 2013 and split them up with a friend. His wife allegedly used a hypodermic syringe to inject his bottles with anti-freeze, according to the Delaware State Police at the time of arrest.

Speaking for the defendant before sentencing, attorney Suzanne MacPherson-Johnson began with “Nothing said here today is intended to minimize (Mr. Baker’s) loss in any way.”

She described the couple as both having substance abuse problems, limited family finances and a stressful relationship. Baker suffered from postpartum depression after giving birth to both her daughters, along with a problem with alcohol and feeling of isolation after moving from upstate Delaware to Smyrna and quitting work, according to the defense.

During a pre-sentence investigation, the attorney pointed to at least one co-worker found to be afraid of Mr. Baker to the point of keeping a protective item on the desk, while others indicated no concerns. He had allegedly used steroids for 20 years, she claimed, and while “most of the time he was a good guy” he occasionally grew angry enough to create a “scary situation.”

In a letter written to Judge Young, the couple’s now 12-year-old daughter described her mother as “just an evil person that was put in my life for some reason, and I don’t know why.

“She didn’t care about me and my sister’s health, which was most of their fights were about …”

The girl described her parents’ fights as often revolving around unpaid bills and her dad’s questioning her mother where the money she received was going. She said the girls “would start screaming and crying, because she would pull his hair, rip his shirt, and throw things at him.”

Her father took them to a hotel once to avoid their mother, according to the daughter, and another time to their grandparents’ home.

Life without dad

Once her father died, the girl said, “life was horrible at (our) house. She was mean to us, and was never at the bus stop waiting for us. She ignored us if we cried for our daddy …”

The siblings now live with their aunt and uncle.

The late James D. Baker Jr. cradles and feeds his nephew in 2000. (Submitted photo/Baker family)

Baker’s sister, Ms. Sullenberger, read a prepared statement to the court that she created with sibling Dawn Kampes. They described it as a letter to Jimmy and spoke of pleasant memories and the noticeable void without him around anymore.

His siblings described Baker as a “doting, loving, hard-working husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend” who received a death sentence from his wife. Her family received a life sentence, according to the sisters, while she played the deceptive role of “a grieving widow.”

The family has been affected in so many ways by the death, the sisters said, “mentally, physically and emotionally. To say that your are missed is a huge understatement.”

The late Mr. Baker worked 22 years for DuPont.

After the sentencing the Baker family praised the efforts of investigating police and the prosecution brought by the Department of Justice, calling the staff “our heroes.”

Mr. Cohee pointed to the “diligent and excellent investigation” conducted by Delaware State Police Sgt. David Weaver and Det. Scott Horsman.

“I also believe today’s sentence would not have been possible without the unwavering support we received from the entire Baker family,” the prosecutor said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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