Though he believes Daniel Baker to have "flights of fancy" and "significant mental health issues," Lake County Associate Judge Daniel Shanes declared the Deerfield man accused of killing his girlfriend's mother to be an intelligent and precocious individual who is mentally fit to stand trial.
Baker, 24, didn't follow through with an earlier plan to fire defense attorney Ed Genson but did go against his advice by waiving a jury trial. That means Shanes alone will decide Baker's innocence or guilt in the April 2010 murder of 50-year-old Marina Aksman.
Opening statements are scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Shanes had declared Baker fit for trial as recently as Oct. 12, but Genson again called his client's competency into question after more bizarre behavior over the weekend.
Baker's mother, Diane Weber, testified her son said Genson belonged to the Russian mafia and was trying to sway the case in favor of Aksman's family, who are of Russian origin.
Baker also insisted Weber pass along to Genson information from a Red Cross manual about mental impairment, crime scenes and hostile situations. In one part, it states the importance of seeking help in dangerous situations.
"He said ... Marina was at fault for not calling 911 after he crashed his car," Weber said.
Police said Baker crashed his car into Marina Aksman's Vernon Hills home just before he killed her with an aluminum baseball bat. Police said Baker killed Aksman after she tried to end a relationship Baker was having with her daughter, Kristina, then 20.
Genson said he doesn't believe Baker is a bad person, but added he's at times delusional and unwilling to assist him in putting on the best defense. The attorney at one point took Baker aside to urge his cooperation, and the two shook hands. But within a few minutes, Baker began interrupting Genson as he addressed the judge.