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Article updated: 4/8/2010 8:55 AM

Couple sought in Vernon Hills murder found in Montana

Marina Aksman of Vernon Hills was found dead in her Vernon Hills home Thursday, April 1.

Marina Aksman of Vernon Hills was found dead in her Vernon Hills home Thursday, April 1.

 
Kristina Aksman

Kristina Aksman

 
Daniel Baker's booking photo after his arrest in Montana Wednesday.

Daniel Baker's booking photo after his arrest in Montana Wednesday.

 
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A 21-year-old Deerfield man, who with his girlfriend eluded police after the April 1 beating death of the girl's mother, now faces first-degree murder charges, law enforcement officials announced Wednesday.

Vernon Hills police said Daniel Baker and his girlfriend, Kristina Aksman, 20, were arrested Monday after a short chase on Highway 2 in Montana.

The couple had been sought for questioning since the badly beaten body of Kristina's mother, Marina Aksman, 50, was found inside her bedroom of the family's Gregg's Landing home.

A car registered to Baker's mother was found crashed into the house, police said, and the 2009 Nissan Rouge owned by Marina Aksman was missing.

Vernon Hills Police Sgt. Kevin Grampo said the Rouge was clocked going 84 mph in a 70 mph zone on Highway 2 in Montana sometime Monday, and the couple was taken into custody after a short pursuit.

Prominent Chicago attorney Ed Genson, who was hired by the Baker family to represent their son, said Wednesday afternoon he had not been contacted by police.

"In the first place, I want to know exactly where he is and how I can get in touch with him," Genson said. "Other than that, I can say that my client will be defended vigorously."

Daniel Baker's mother, Diane Baker, declined to comment on the arrest. Robert Aksman, Marina Aksman's husband and the father of Kristina, did not return calls seeking comment.

Neither Grampo nor Lake County Deputy State's Attorney Jeffrey Pavletic would say exactly where in Montana the couple was being held.

Grampo said police initially remained silent on the couple's arrest out of concern for Kristina Aksman, and believed releasing the information about their detention too soon would jeopardize the investigation.

Pavletic said Kristina Aksman has not been charged in connection with her mother's murder, and is held in Montana on charges related to the chase. He declined to say if investigators believe Kristina was involved in or aware of the murder.

Baker and Kristina Aksman are believed to be in good health, Pavletic said, although there was concern about Kristina because she takes medication to control a seizure disorder.

Detectives from the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force were sent to Montana to interview the pair, Pavletic said. He would not comment on the results of those interviews.

Pavletic said officials were waiting for an extradition hearing to be scheduled for Baker. He declined to comment on plans to return Kristina Aksman to Illinois.

A nationwide alert for the couple had been issued shortly after Marina Aksman's body was discovered.

Baker and Kristina Aksman were originally called "persons of interest" in the investigation, but Kristina Aksman's classification was later changed to "missing and endangered." Officials said that reflected concern about whether she was taking her medication.

Police said evidence developed at the scene of the crime led to the charges against Baker. A baseball bat, believed to be the murder weapon, was discovered inside the house.

Police said there was tension between Baker and Marina Aksman over his eight-month dating relationship with Kristina.

On March 15, Marina Aksman was appointed her daughter's legal guardian after a court hearing at which Marina Aksman claimed her daughter suffered from "cognitive impairment disability," and that her "capacity for judgment and reasoning is significantly diminished," according to court documents.

Pavletic declined to comment on whether investigators believe the guardianship played any role in the slaying.

Marina Aksman was a hair stylist at Ulta Salon in Vernon Hills, where regional loss prevention agent Carlos Sainz predicted her co-workers would be relieved to hear of an arrest in her murder.

"It couldn't be otherwise," Sainz said.

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