Murder or Suicide? 20/20 Investigates

A wife and mother is found dead in Texas; her husband is the prime suspect.

ByABC News
March 7, 2008, 10:48 AM

March 7, 2008 — -- Matt and Kari Baker appeared to have a perfect life in Waco, Texas: a house in the suburbs, two beautiful daughters and church on Sundays with Matt at the pulpit.

But that existence was shattered when almost two years ago, when Kari was 31 years old, she apparently committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. There was a typed unsigned suicide note.

Matt, received the sympathy and compassion of his community -- until he was charged with his wife's murder. Now the 36-year-old preacher must defend himself to an increasingly doubtful congregation and prosecutor.

"There was never a doubt that I loved her or that she loved me. I never doubted that for a moment," Matt said. "She had a wonderful smile, great personality. I don't think my love ever stopped for her and it won't."

Although Kari had a full life, not only as a mother and wife, but as an elementary school teacher, Matt 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. Everyone agrees that the death drove to bouts of terrible grief.

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

The night Kari died, Matt told investigators about Kari's sadness over the loss of her daughter and they 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 was buried, her family, recovering from shock, told everyone who would listen that suicide was not in Kari's 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's aunt. "There is no way Kari would've done this."

Lanham also says Kari was excited for her future.

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

Matt's mother, Barbara, remains convinced that her daughter-in-law took her own life. "Suicide is an answer to pain you can't get rid of," she 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."