July 9, 2010— -- Matt Baker was once a beloved Baptist minister in the heart of the Bible Belt. But what his doting Waco, Texas, congregation didn't know was that when he preached the Ten Commandments from the pulpit, he was breaking them in private.
Two months before his wife, Kari Baker, was found dead in their bed, apparently from an overdose of sleeping pills, he had secretly started an affair with a woman at church, according to the woman.
His wife's April 2006 death was ruled a suicide by the Hewitt Police Department. But her mother, cousin, and aunts were unconvinced that suicide was in the 31-year-old's nature and launched their own investigation.
As the Kerrville community showered Baker, who would raise their two young daughters alone, with sympathy and compassion, Kari Baker's family made it their mission to find out what really happened. The first crucial clues came when her mom, Linda Dulin, received her daughter's cell phone bill and noticed calls were still being made, even after her death.
"Matt had given Kari's cell phone to someone and what that told me ... was something wasn't right," Dulin said. "Matt's story wasn't right."
That someone was Vanessa Bulls, a recently divorced single mother and church member. Although Baker and Bulls denied having an affair, McLennan County Criminal Investigator Abdon Rodriguez had his suspicions in interviews with Bulls.
"She's telling me, 'No, I never did do this, I never did go here or there or whatever.' And I had already verified that she had," Rodriguez said of Bull's relationship with Baker while his wife was still alive.
It wasn't until Bulls faced a grand jury that she finally admitted to not just the affair, but also to Baker's admission to her that he had killed his wife.
During a January trial, Bulls testified and gave her account of their relationship with jaw-dropping details.
Bulls was a recently divorced, vulnerable, single mother and said Baker saw it as his chance at seduction. At the time, the 24-year-old blonde was younger and, more importantly to Baker, slimmer than his wife.
"He referred to her as a fat b**ch, and said that he couldn't stand how fat she had gotten; said that he wanted her out of his life," Bulls said.
CLICK HERE to see photos of Kari and Matt Baker through the years
Pastor's Seduction, Evil Plot
Bulls said Baker first approached her in the months prior to his wife's death, making some peculiar passes. She said he told her: "Don't date other guys. Just date your pastor," and one time went even as far as telling her, "I've had a vasectomy so I can't get you pregnant. Also, I don't have any STDs."
Using Bulls' recent divorce status as a way to interact with her, Baker began calling her frequently, offering divorce counseling. She said he invited her to his home on Friday nights in February 2006 while his wife was at work for some in-person counseling.
"He started, you know, quoting scripture, things like that," Bulls said in her testimony. "Then he asked if he could hold my hands to pray and he did. Then afterwards, he started to kiss me."
He then led Bulls to his bedroom where they had sex, she said, the same room where his wife would die two months later.
About a month into their affair, Bulls said Baker began talking about killing his wife, and by mid-March, he started discussing ways that he could do it.
"He talked initially about maybe putting something in a milkshake because he said she liked milkshakes," Bulls testified. "So he was thinking about maybe putting sleeping medication in there and having her drink that."
Bulls said Baker shared other ways he thought about killing his wife, including making it seem as though she had hanged herself, tampering with the brakes on her car, or even a drive-by shooting.
"That he had been plotting her death in so many different ways. ... It was incredibly sad," Dulin, his mother-in-law, told ABC News after listening to Bulls' testimony.
After at least one attempt at his wife's life that Baker had told Bulls about, the pastor had finally succeeded. Kari Baker's nearly naked body was found by emergency responders on the floor of her bedroom April 7, 2006, and on the nightstand next to her bed, was a typed, unsigned suicide note, along with a bottle of sleeping pills.
Ruse of Wild Sex Before Wife's Murder
Bulls, who was not charged in connection to killing, testified about the events that unfolded the night she died. Bulls told the jury that after the murder, Baker said he had promised his wife a wild night of sex, handcuffed her to the bed and put sleeping pills in a cocktail.
"He started kissing her and touching her all over and he said -- I don't know if he took her clothes off or not. He never specified. Then he said he kept doing that until she fell asleep. He said then whenever he did that, he said he kissed her on the forehead and either, I don't know which one he said, he either said, 'Give Kassidy a hug for me' [referring to their second daughter who died of a brain tumor] or 'Give Kassidy a kiss for me,'" Bulls testified.
Then, she said, he put a pillow over her head. Bulls said he later told her, "God had forgiven him."
With his wife dead, Bulls said her relationship moved so fast that they even went shopping for engagement rings. But their affair soon came to an end when Bulls had second thoughts about Baker and the cover up. When she broke up with him on the phone, she said he became irate.
"He started saying, I killed my wife for you and now you're leaving?" Bulls recalled.
Baker, 38, was convicted and sentenced to 65 years in prison, a verdict that seemed to stun the former preacher. After the verdict, Baker said in court, "I believe the jury made a mistake in this."