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posted: 4/10/2010 12:01 AM

Suspect in Vernon Hills murder ordered held without bond

Prosecution details horrific crime, defense hints at insanity

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  • Marina Aksman

    Marina Aksman


Daniel Baker was on his way, and he wanted his target to know he was coming.

"Marina ruined everything, and guess what? Now there is going to be trouble," a Lake County prosecutor told a judge Friday, quoting a message left on the Aksman family voice mail. "Now it's over; you don't mess with Daniel Baker."

Baker, 21, was ordered held without bond in the April 1 beating death of Marina Aksman, 50, of Vernon Hills, who prosecutors said was trying to break off Baker's romance with her 20-year-old daughter, Kristina.

Deputy State's Attorney Jeff Pavletic told Associate Judge Raymond Collins that Marina Aksman and her husband, Robert, did not approve of the relationship their daughter had with Baker and told him as much.

Things boiled over in the early morning hours of April 1, Pavletic said, just a short time after Marina Aksman had left Baker a voice-mail message.

"You are never going to see her again," Pavletic said the message stated. "I think you are bi-polar."

True to her word, Marina Aksman showed up at Baker's Deerfield home and demanded Kristina come home with her immediately.

Baker stewed for a couple of hours, then got into his mother's Dodge Neon and headed for the Aksman house, delivering the volatile message along the way, prosecutors said.

When Baker reached the house on Olympic Drive in the upscale Gregg's Landing subdivision, he gunned the accelerator and drove straight at the front door, Pavletic said.

The cement front stoop stopped the car short of the door Baker intended to crash through, Pavletic said.

Baker got out of the car with an aluminum baseball bat in his hands. He smashed through the glass in a door at the rear of the house, Pavletic said, then confronted Marina in the first-floor master bedroom.

Kristina had heard the crashes and had seen Baker coming through the door, according to what Pavletic said was her videotaped statement to police.

She watched as Baker swung the bat.

"She said the defendant first swung at her mother's legs, then swung it into the side of her head," Pavletic said. "She said her mother's 'head broke apart like an avocado,' and that it was shocking."

Baker then ordered Kristina to pack her clothes and the two took $1,000 to $2,000 in cash, her mother's wallet and some of her checks, Pavletic said.

They took Marina Aksman's 2009 Nissan Rouge and, after filling it with gas at a Libertyville station, headed out onto the road.

Five days later, Baker was speeding on Highway 2 in northern Montana when a sheriff's deputy attempted to pull him over, Pavletic said.

A miles-long chase ensued before multiple squad cars were able to box in the SUV and stop it. Baker and Kristina Aksman were taken into custody.

Baker had $360 in cash in his pocket. A pair of his pants and a pair of his shoes were found in the car with what investigators believe are bloodstains, Pavletic said.

Kristina Aksman will not be charged in the case, Pavletic said, because there is no evidence she knew the murder was going to occur and did not participate in the slaying.

Just three weeks before her death, Marina Aksman was appointed Kristina's legal guardian based, in part, on a letter from a doctor that said the girl was "not fully capable of taking care of herself, being an independent adult or making her own decisions," according to court documents.

Baker's mental health may come into play as well as the case unfolds.

Chicago defense attorney Ed Genson told Collins he believes he will be able to prove Baker "is not legally responsible for his actions" at the time of Aksman's killing.

Genson declined to comment when asked after the hearing if he was considering an insanity defense. In Illinois, the only way a person can be found not responsible for his actions is to have a judge or jury decide he was insane.

Later, Genson questioned why neither Baker's family nor attorney were informed he was in police custody in Montana until two days had elapsed.

State's Attorney Michael Waller responded that Baker is a 21-year-old adult and his parents didn't require notification of his arrest. He added authorities didn't immediately know the name of Baker's lawyer.

Pavletic said that in his statement to police, Baker said he had gone to the Aksman house to save Kristina from her mother.

"I am the protector," Pavletic said Baker told police. "That's me; I don't stop until the threat is eliminated."

Pavletic said Baker resigned himself to eventually being captured and drove through the northern United States to show his girl the sights.

"I knew I was going to get caught," Pavletic said Baker told police. "But I wanted to show Kristina the beautiful world first."

Baker, who is charged with first-degree murder, is due in court May 5.