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Article updated: 4/29/2013 5:36 PM

Baker gets 47 years in slaying of Vernon Hills woman

By Bob Susnjara

Daniel Baker received 47 years in prison for killing a Vernon Hills woman with repeated blows from a baseball bat, but he didn't stick around long enough to hear the sentence in a Lake County courtroom.

Baker's outbursts during his sentencing hearing Monday led Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes to give him a last chance to remain in the courtroom if he stayed quiet. Baker, 24, formerly of Deerfield, passed on the offer.

"Just take me back to the cell. I don't want to be here," Baker said before Shanes allowed court security officers to escort him to his county jail quarters.

Shanes late last year found Baker guilty but mentally ill of slaying 50-year-old Marina Aksman in her home on April 1, 2010. Shanes said Baker must serve the entire penitentiary sentence for first-degree murder and will recommend he be sent to a facility capable of providing mental health and psychiatric treatment.

"This is a horribly sad and tragic case," Shanes said. "A case of senseless violence and destruction."

Testimony showed Baker became enraged when Aksman tried to end his relationship with her daughter. He drove to her Vernon Hills home in the middle of the night, broke in using a baseball bat, then bludgeoned Aksman to death before leaving with her daughter for four days.

Police picked up Baker and his ex-girlfriend, Kristina Aksman, in Montana. Baker admitted to the murder of Marina Aksman during a five-hour interview with investigators after his arrest in Montana, authorities said.

Due to her disabilities, Kristina Aksman was never charged in connection with the murder, prosecutors said. In a January letter to Shanes, Baker wrote that Kristina Aksman had killed her mother, but he had covered up the murder to protect her.

Marina Aksman's daughter, Natalie Rozenbilt, read a victim-impact statement on behalf of her family during the sentencing hearing. She said neither her family nor Baker's deserved the pain and suffering he's caused.

"My mother has been brutally killed," Rozenbilt said early in her statement when Baker loudly interrupted her while sitting near the defense table.

"By your own sister," Baker said.

Rozenbilt continued with the statement without reacting to Baker.

"My mother suffered for the last minutes of her life," Rozenbilt said. "She was brutally beaten. My mother never deserved this. My wonderful, loving, caring, kind-souled mother lost her life because of the selfless act of a ferocious, disturbing and ruthless man."

Baker's mother, father and stepfather spoke as well. Diane Weber said her son had "major issues" and always wanted to be normal.

Stepfather Fred Weber said he's seen Baker change over three years of solitary confinement at the Lake County jail.

"What I have experienced is a steady decay of his mind," Fred Weber said.

Baker was given an opportunity to make a statement, but he initially tried to ask Shanes questions about his case. Baker then said he didn't commit murder and referred to himself as a federalist.

"I don't feel the need to explain myself," he said. "I feel traumatized as it is."

Special prosecutor Dave Neal sought life in prison for Baker, citing a lack of remorse from the defendant for killing Aksman with six to 15 blows from the bat. After offering condolences to the Aksman family and apologizing for his client's courtroom behavior, defense attorney Edward Gensen asked that Shanes take into account Baker's mental illness for the sentence.

Earlier in the day, Gensen raised questions on whether Baker was able to understand any potential prison sentence he faced. However, Shanes ruled a psychiatrist who works for Lake County's court system was credible in finding Baker was aware of the proceeding and mentally fit for sentencing.

University of Chicago psychiatrist Peter Nierman, who was hired by Baker's mother, testified Baker suffers from delusions and hallucinations. Nierman said he met with Baker for one hour Dec. 27 and concluded he needed to be treated and restored to mental fitness before he went through a sentencing hearing.

"I thought his judgment was severely impaired," Nierman said.

But circuit court psychiatrist Anthony Latham testified he met with Baker on March 21 and found his memory function was intact and his mood was within "normal limits." Latham said there was no reason to delay Baker's sentencing.

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