No charges or warrants have been filed in the murder of a Vernon Hills woman, but the family of one of two people sought for questioning has hired a noted Chicago defense attorney.
The parents of 21-year-old Daniel Baker of Deerfield hired Ed Genson to represent them and their son, who along with his girlfriend, Kristina Aksman, 20, of Vernon Hills, are targets of a nationwide manhunt. Aksman's mother, Marina, was found beaten to death last week in her home.
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"According to newspapers, the police have named him a person of interest, and if he is a person of interest, then he deserves representation," Genson said Monday. "No one has spoken with him and they don't know why he's gone. The family is hoping he returns safely."
Genson represented former Gov. Rod Blagojevich after his 2008 arrest, as well as R&B star R. Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.
Susan A. Bandes, a law professor at DePaul University who specializes in criminal procedure, said it shouldn't be a surprise why Genson was hired.
"If somebody you cared about was that close to a murder investigation, that's what you would do," Bandes said.
Even though Baker hasn't been charged in the case and therefore doesn't yet have a right to legal counsel, it's still a smart move, she said.
"Before people start questioning you and you go on the record ... it's an excellent idea to talk to an attorney," Bandes said.
Vernon Hills police Sgt. Patrick Zimmerman said police have investigated about 50 leads in searching for the missing couple, and all have turned up empty. Anonymous tips have included reports of someone having seen the couple and knowing where they have gone, he said.
"We are tirelessly following up on every lead, even if the lead does not pan out," he said. "It has been an extremely difficult investigation because they are both young, kept to themselves and, basically, each other."
Zimmerman said police presume they are still driving the mother's 2009 silver Nissan Rogue with Illinois license plate 421 9607. The car has not been found.
Kristina Aksman was declared "missing and endangered" on Friday, Zimmerman said, because police are concerned she has not taken medicine to control mental and physical disabilities she reportedly has.
Genson said he was hired after Daniel Baker was labeled a "person of interest" by police.
"(Daniel's) family is as concerned over his whereabouts and safety as the police are," he said. "It's extremely odd they haven't been found at this point."
Diana Baker also filed a missing persons report for her son with Deerfield police about 8:30 p.m. Saturday, said Deputy Police Chief Rick Wilk. He would not discuss the case because it is a pending investigation.
The couple have been missing since Marina Aksman was bludgeoned to death in her Gregg's Landing home early April 1.
Vernon Hills police found a silver, four-door sedan, registered to Daniel Baker's parents, crashed into the front of Aksman's house in Gregg's Landing. Police found a smashed rear door and the victim in her bedroom.
Leads police are investigating include possible tensions between Marina Aksman and Baker over his eight-month dating relationship with Kristina, and the legal guardianship of Kristina the courts awarded to her mother because of the girl's mental health.
According to court records, Marina Aksman was appointed Kristina's guardian about three weeks ago. A May 2008 letter from her doctor indicates Kristina suffers from a seizure disorder for which she receives treatment. She has also been described as developmentally delayed and "not fully capable of taking care of herself."
Zimmerman said it is unclear if murder charges would be filed if the couple remain missing.
"It has been discussed, but so far, we are focusing on getting through the evidence we have and finding those two," he said.