Daniel Baker's first-degree murder trial isn't a question of "whodunit," as defense attorney Ed Genson put it Friday during his closing argument.
Rather, the case centers around whether the Deerfield man, who suffers from multiple mental disorders, was legally insane at the time he allegedly bludgeoned his girlfriend's mother, Marina Aksman, to death in her Vernon Hills home on April 1, 2010.
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Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes said he'll take the weekend to consider tremendous amounts of evidence and the testimony of more than 20 witnesses heard during the seven-day bench trial before rendering his verdict at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
Prosecutors say Baker, 24, "set out to punish the Aksman family" when he woke to a voice mail Aksman left warning he could no longer see her daughter, Kristina.
"After hearing that voice mail, Daniel Baker got mad," Assistant State's Attorney Stella Veytsel said. "No, Daniel Baker got enraged."
She painted Baker as lucid and calculating and said the evidence was overwhelming that Baker not only killed Aksman, but also appreciated the criminality of his conduct.
Veytsel pointed to physical evidence including Baker's DNA on the baseball bat he used to beat Aksman's knees and face, and the victim's blood on his clothing and shoes. Prosecutors also said Baker sounded calm and rational when he left a threatening voice mail at the Aksman household just minutes before he crashed his car into the house.
Veytsel walked through Baker's actions in the days before and after the murder, from the normal outing he and Kristina Aksman enjoyed hours earlier to how the pair eluded authorities during his getaway by using cash, fake names and driving on what Baker called the "loneliest highway in Montana" to avoid detection.
Kristina Aksman was not charged in connection with the murder.
Baker's actions weren't the result of a psychotic break as defense attorneys suggest, prosecutors said. Baker demonstrated his sanity by having Kristina Aksman pack a bag with her seizure medication, stealing money and Marina Aksman's purse, buying gas nearby and then driving 10 hours north toward Canada.
"Psychosis is a break from reality," Assistant State's Attorney Ari Fisz said. "There is zero evidence the defendant broke from reality."
However, Genson said Aksman's murder was the result of a "perfect storm" of events in Baker's life.
Baker, who from an early age has been diagnosed with a laundry list of learning and personality disorders, had recently met with his biological father after a 20-year separation and learned his mother had gotten married to her fourth husband. Two nights before the murder, he sent Kristina Aksman more than 180 text messages filled with jealously and accusations of infidelity.
Baker feared being abandoned, Genson said, and losing his girlfriend, who was a crucial "badge of normalcy" for him.
Marina Aksman's voice mail to Baker, in which she also said he was bipolar, "struck some sort of chord."
Genson also questioned psychiatrist Dr. Stafford Henry's opinion Baker was sane at the time of the murder, saying the information in his report was almost exclusively based on the "self-reporting of a manipulative liar" in Baker.