Former Texas Pastor Matt Baker Indicted in Wife's 2006 Death

Former Texas pastor Matt Baker accused of drugging and suffocating his wife.

ByABC News
April 3, 2009, 4:34 PM

April 6, 2009 — -- Matt Baker, a former pastor and family man, was indicted last week for the murder of his wife Kari Baker three years ago.

On April 7, 2006, 31-year-old Kari Baker of Waco, Texas, was found dead from an overdose of sleeping pills, leaving behind a typed, unsigned suicide note.

Matt Baker, 37, the father of two daughters with Kari, received the sympathy and compassion of his community until he became a suspect in his wife's death, a charge he denies. Baker was arrested on Sept. 21, 2007 and held for 25 days before being released. Authorities alleged in a 2007 affidavit that Baker was "interested in having a relationship" with a female member of his church and had been speaking to her from his work or cell phone "once or twice a day" between January and April of 2006.

Baker claims that he and the female were no more than friends. The murder charge was never dropped, but Baker wasn't previously indicted due to lack of evidence.

"I did not kill my wife. I did not hurt my wife. I loved her," Matt Baker told ABC News in March 2008. "There was never a doubt that I loved her or that she loved me. She had a wonderful smile, great personality. I don't think my love ever stopped for her and it won't."

Information provided by the female member of Matt Baker's church -- who was given immunity and testified before the grand jury on March 25 -- led to the current indictment, which alleges that Baker "intentionally or knowingly caused the death" of his wife by "administering drugs to her and suffocating her with a pillow."

Baker turned himself in on March 26 and is being held on $500,000 bail.

On Friday, Matt Baker's mother told ABC News that the family would fight the charges.

"We have always believed in our son's innocence, and we will aggressively fight these charges," Barbara Baker said. "As much as we love helping to raise our granddaughters and get to participate in their daily activities, we know that the girls are eagerly waiting for daddy to come home."

Kari's mother, Linda Dulin, told ABC News that the family is grateful that a new investigator in the district attorney's office looked at the case with fresh eyes.

Although Kari Baker had a full life, in his 2008 interview with ABC News Matt Baker said there were signs of trouble.

It began with a monumental tragedy in the young couple's life: the loss of their second daughter. Kassidy, who was born a decade ago, suffered a brain tumor when she was 1 and died at 16 months in 1999. Everyone agreed that the death drove Kari Baker to bouts of terrible grief.

"I didn't think she was depressed," Matt Baker said. "I thought it was just a deep sadness."

"Suicide is an answer to pain you can't get rid of," Barbara Baker said. "There was pain that Kari was undergoing that she either couldn't or didn't get the proper help for and that was not a bad answer for her."

The night Kari Baker died, Matt Baker told investigators about her sadness over the loss of her daughter and the investigators quickly decided the death was a suicide. A lone detective took photographs of the scene and the justice of the peace -- who didn't come to the house -- made a ruling of suicide over the phone and without an autopsy.

Just days after Kari Baker was buried, her family, recovering from shock, told everyone who would listen that suicide was not in her nature. She had two daughters, Kensi and Grace, and loved her job at Spring Valley Elementary School.

"This just came out of nowhere," said Nancy Lanham, Kari Baker's aunt. "There is no way Kari would've done this."

Lanham also said Kari Baker was excited for her future.

"The day of her death, she had gone in for an interview," Lanham said. "It went really well."