Body in water may be missing man


Baltimore police retrieved a decomposed body from the Inner Harbor yesterday afternoon that may be that of Donald A. Baker -- the marketing executive who disappeared from a party at his upscale condominium building last month, police said.

A watch and wedding ring recovered from the body appeared to match the description of jewelry Mr. Baker was wearing on the night he vanished, police said. But a positive identification cannot be made until an autopsy is completed.

Lt. Timothy Keel of the Baltimore police homicide unit said the body was spotted in the water shortly after 1:30 p.m. near the HarborView Towers condominiums, where Mr. Baker last was seen alive at an informal gathering of residents in the building's recreation room March 12.

That night, his wife reported to police that her husband left the party about 9 p.m. to go for a stroll around the harbor and never came back. The disappearance came two months after Mr. Baker filed a lawsuit claiming that his partner in the Chesapeake Randall food marketing firm was trying to cut him out of a $4.2 million business deal.

Company officials, who hold a $220,000 insurance policy on Mr. Baker's life, strongly denied any connection between the suit and Mr. Baker's disappearance, saying that a settlement had nearly been reached in the dispute.

Adding to the 6-week-old mystery, clothing recovered from the body yesterday does not fit the description of what Mr. Baker was wearing the night he vanished -- suggesting that his wife's original missing person report was incorrect or that her husband changed his clothes before leaving the building.

"We recovered a watch and a wedding ring that appear to be the same as the ones he was reported to be wearing when he disappeared," Lieutenant Keel said. "But the clothes are different, much different."

Mr. Baker's wife, Carol, said he was wearing a lightweight yellow sweater and gray slacks when he left the party March 12.

But the body recovered by police was wearing heavy corduroy pants, a leather jacket and gloves -- raising the question of why Mr. Baker would return to the couple's condominium before leaving the building and change into cold weather clothes on a night when the temperature was 57 degrees.

Lieutenant Keel said it is too early to say whether the man recovered from the harbor was the victim of foul play or an accident, adding that the condition of the body suggests that it has been in the water for several weeks.

A spokesman for the state Medical Examiner's Office said that an autopsy had not begun as of yesterday evening, and results may not be known for a few days.

Mr. Baker's wife could not be reached for comment. But his son, Christopher, 24, said the family had just received the news that a body had been recovered and was not prepared to comment.

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