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updated: 5/13/2010 11:57 AM

Suspect in Vernon Hills slaying pleads not guilty

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  • Daniel Baker

      Daniel Baker

 
 

A Deerfield man accused of beating his girlfriend's mother to death with an aluminum baseball bat pleaded not guilty Thursday in Lake County circuit court.

Daniel Baker, 20, could face the death penalty if convicted of the April 1 murder of Marina Aksman, 50, inside her Vernon Hills home.

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Police said Baker became enraged over Marina Aksman's efforts to end his relationship with her daughter, Kristina Aksman, 20.

Just hours before the murder, police said Marina Aksman drove to Baker's home to retrieve her daughter after leaving Baker a voice-mail message telling him he was never going to see Kristina again.

After the women left Baker's house, Baker left a voice-mail message of his own on the Aksmans' telephone that police said included a threat.

"Marina ruined everything, and guess what? Now there is going to be trouble," officials quoted Baker in his message. "Now it is over; you don't mess with Daniel Baker."

A short time later, police said, Baker crashed his car into the front of the Aksman residence in Vernon Hills' posh Gregg's Landing neighborhood and smashed his way through the back door using the aluminum bat.

He confronted Marina Aksman in a first-floor bedroom, police said, and as her daughter looked on, struck her several times in the head with the bat.

Baker then took Kristina Aksman, around $2,000 in cash from the house and the victim's 2009 Nissan Rouge and fled the state.

He was caught five days later in Cut Bank, Montana, near the Canadian border. Detectives from the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force flew to Montana where, officials said, Baker confessed to the crime.

Official said Kristina Aksman will not be charged in the case because they are convinced she knew nothing of Baker's plan and did nothing to assist him.

Assistant State's Attorney Patricia Fix said State's Attorney Michael Waller will offer to meet with Baker's defense team and discuss the capital punishment option.

Fix said defense attorneys typically bring mitigating factors concerning their client's background, education and any mental or psychological issues they may have to such meetings in an effort to turn prosecutors away from seeking the death penalty.

Chicago attorney Ed Genson said after the hearing he was looking forward to meeting with Waller, but declined to comment when asked how he intended to influence Waller's decision.

Genson also declined to comment when asked to expand on a comment he made at Baker's April 9 bond hearing when he said Baker was "not legally responsible for his actions." That could be an indication an insanity defense is in the works.

Prosecutors have 120 days from Thursday's arraignment to announce if they intend to seek the death penalty, but that time limit can be extended through an agreement by both parties.

Circuit Judge Fred Foreman ordered Baker, who is being held without bond, to appear in court again Aug. 20.

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