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updated: 10/17/2012 4:04 PM

Baker changes course, claims innocence in Vernon Hills murder

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  • Daniel Baker

    Daniel Baker


Just when noted Chicago attorney Ed Genson thought he had seen it all from his client, Daniel Baker -- whose insanity defense he had laid out 24 hours earlier -- dropped a bombshell.

"Today, for the first time, you're telling me you didn't do it," an incredulous Genson said to Baker.

Genson later said to the Deerfield man, "You're a trip kid. You're one of a kind. I just want you to know that."

Baker, 24, reversed course during one of the mid-witness asides with his attorney that have become routine. At the time of Baker's interruption, evidence technician Terry Richards was testifying that the bloodstained bat, pillow cases and comforter prosecutors were showing him were the same items he packaged hours after Marina Aksman was found murdered in her Vernon Hills home April 1, 2010.

Baker, whose mental issues including bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette syndrome have been widely documented, is charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors say he bludgeoned Aksman to death with an aluminum baseball bat because she wanted to end his relationship with her daughter, Kristina Aksman.

This morning, Baker told Genson he's been brainwashed and wants to start the trial over again with new opening statements and a series of character witnesses on his behalf.

That prompted Genson to motion for a mistrial to Lake County Associate Judge Daniel Shanes, who's presiding over the bench trial. Baker waived a jury trial against Genson's advice.

Genson told Shanes he doesn't want to further delay the trial and doesn't believe Baker's sudden revelation that he "wasn't even in the house" to be a trick. He does, however, believe Baker needs to be medicated in order to continue and asked Shanes to declare his client incompetent.

Shanes denied the motion, saying Genson and co-counsel Blaire Dalton haven't yet offered a defense with evidence. He agreed to a long lunch break so Baker could meet with his attorneys.

The prosecution then questioned Kristina Aksman, who testified Baker crashed his silver Dodge Neon into the front of her family's house and used a bat to shatter a rear glass door and gain entry.

Aksman, who has cognitive disabilities and now lives in a group home, said Baker hit her mother in the knee and face with the bat. With her lifeless body on the bed, he grabbed a lighter later found at her side.

"He was trying to light her on fire," Aksman said, adding the lighter didn't work.

Kristina Aksman, who hasn't been charged in connection to the murder, said her mother was upset because she didn't come home from an outing she took with Baker to the zoo and dinner. Prosecutors said Marina Aksman picked up her daughter from Baker's house and left him a voice mail at 2:42 a.m. the morning she was killed saying the two of them could no longer see each other.

Kristina Aksman testified that after Baker hit her mother, he told her to pack some clothes while he took money from the kitchen. She still wore pink pajamas when they fled in Marina Aksman's Nissan Rogue.

She recalled portions of their four-day evasion from authorities, including how Baker only used cash, how they bought applesauce so she could take her anti-seizure pills and how he insisted she use a fake name when signing into a North Dakota inn.

Prosecutors claim Baker knew what he was doing and are attempting to portray his actions as methodical.

Kristina Aksman said Baker kept talking about Canada and Mexico. When authorities in Montana pulled over their speeding vehicle four days after the murder, they found a map with Tijuana circled.

Defense attorneys are expected to cross-examine Kristina Aksman this afternoon.

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