Daniel Baker tightly shut his eyes while a prosecutor on Friday told a Lake County judge that he bashed in the head of his girlfriend’s mother with a baseball bat.
During closing statements at Baker’s trial, Assistant State’s Atty. Stella Veytsel said that Baker set out that April 2010 morning to “punish the Aksman family.” He drove his Dodge Neon into the front porch of their Vernon Hills home, broke in the back door with a baseball bat, and attacked 50-year-old Marina Aksman, the prosecutor said.
“Daniel Baker, bat in hand, followed her … struck her in the head over and over as Kristina (his girlfriend) watched,” Veytsel said.
Attorneys for Baker, 24, of Deerfield, say he suffers from mental disabilities, and claim that he was insane at the time of the slaying.
“He lacks the capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct,” said Ed Genson, lead defense attorney. “This case isn’t a ‘who done it.’”
Genson called the case a “tragedy” in which a “fine woman, a mother who was doing her best, lost her life.”
Genson pointed to Baker’s difficult childhood, saying he did not see his biological father after age 2, and began taking medication for mental issues at 3.
“He was a loner, had few friends and he had very limited experience with the opposite sex,” Genson said.
Kristina Aksman was his first serious girlfriend. On the morning of April 1, 2010, when her mother threatened to never let him see her again and called Baker “bi-polar” in a voice mail message, Marina Aksman inadvertently ‘triggered” a psychotic episode in him, Genson said.
“There is no reason this young man would have done what he did unless he was insane,” Genson said, pointing to the fact that Baker had never been violent in the past. Baker remained wide-eyed and attentive while Genson gave his closing arguments.
In rebuttal, Assistant State’s Atty. Ari Fisz urged Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Shanes to ignore issues related to Baker’s childhood. A crime scene that he called “unimaginably horrific” is the key to the case, Fisz said.
Fisz said that for the defense’s theory to hold up, Shanes would have to believe that Baker had a “mental illness that was literally so severe that he could not understand the criminality of his conduct while he was beating her brains out.”
“The one question this court has to answer is whether he knew what he did was wrong,” Fisz said.
Shanes will spend the weekend reviewing the evidence and testimony, and said he would deliver his verdict Monday at 9:30 a.m.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun