Man gets 12 years for rape

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

A 56-year-old grandfather was found guilty of raping his teenage granddaughter in Circuit Court Wednesday in Berryville by a jury of nine women and four men.

He was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the Class Y felony conviction, which does not allow for credit for good behavior. He will have to serve a minimum of 70 percent of the time.

The conviction normally carries a requirement of DNA sampling and registering as a sexual offender, although that was not included in the initial verdict.

The decision was reached following an emotional trial which included testimony by a tearful victim, now 15 years old and living out of state. In a small voice, she testified that her grandfather, James Edward Baker Jr., began molesting her after she and three brothers moved, with him and his wife, Holly Baker, from Blue Eye, Mo., to Oak Grove.

Through tears, the girl detailed several sexual advances and actions by Baker.

Because of her soft voice and her face being etched with emotion as she sobbed, much of her testimony was difficult to understand. Enough was understandable, apparently, for the jury to reach a decision about her grandfather's guilt.

Testimony of investigators, ranging from Green Forest School Resource Officer, Cpl. Gaylon Riggs, to Johnnie Ruth Davenport, Area 1 supervisor of the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Unit, covered statements made by the victim during the investigation, which sometimes matched, and sometimes did not match, the victim's testimony on Tuesday.

Officers' descriptions of the victim's initial statements varied in the number of times incidents took place, the time period over which they occurred, and the types of incidents.

A medical exam requested by state police revealed that an earlier exam, which included a Pap smear, compromised findings.

Videotapes of the victim's statements, which are normal in such an investigation, were not made.

The affidavit of probable cause in the case indicates that the sexual abuse took place between mid-1999 and a few months before the victim reported the situation to Riggs.

That report started with the then-13-year-old victim approaching Riggs after school on April 23, 2002, the same day that he taught a 50-minute lesson on child physical and sexual abuse to her class at Green Forest Schools.

Because of other duty demands, Riggs could not meet with her at that time, and the following day he met with her and a counselor before turning the case over to Davenport and Sgt. Alan Hoos of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.

While the victim spent the rest of that day with a favorite teacher, Baker was brought in for questioning at the sheriff's office.

Videotapes of the interviews conducted with Baker showed Hoos and Davenport using standard interrogation techniques which could be described as intimidating and leading, resulting in Baker confessing to touching the girl inappropriately, and tearfully writing two notes of apology.

He initially denied any memory of doing what he was accused of, indicating that he might need psychiatric treatment.

Public Defender Rachel Runnels stated that the videotaped confession could have been false, brought about by Baker's confusion and fear of being investigated, and not wanting to call his granddaughter a liar.

Evidence did come out that around the time that the victim reported the incident,t her mother had been imprisoned, that an older sister had compained of sexual abuse by the man the victim considered to be her dad, who was subsequently murdered, with his body not being found for several weeks.

Additionally, the victim's diary, while having no direct entry during the time regarding specific sex acts, did address what Runnels portrayed as typical teenage anger at the parental figures of her grandfather and step-grandmother.

Prosecutor Scott Jackson said the anger demonstrated in the diary was over what her grandfather was doing to her.

Holly Baker said that her husband confirmed that "he did what they said he did," when she saw him at the sheriff's office, but that her question was not specific regarding sexual assault because of her embarrassment and shame.

Mrs. Baker said that, after moving to Oak Grove, she was already at work when it was time to get the grandchildren up for school, which her husband did. The victim stated that the events took place in the morning when it was still dark, and that she pretended to be asleep and never told her grandfather to stop.Mrs. Baker, now divorced, said that prior to that April 24, in 14 years of marriage she never suspected her husband of performing sex acts with a granddaughter.She did tell investigators about catching her husband on the internet at 2 a.m. in the morning viewing pornography. Baker, however, told investigators that the pornography "just popped up," and he clicked out of it.

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