A Topeka woman kidnapped last December along with two neighbors who later were shot to death in rural Douglas County described the ordeal this morning during a preliminary hearing for a man charged with the murders.
Verne Horne, 69, testified that she stared down the man, Tyrone Baker, and was able to escape after he took her and the other Topekans to a northeast Douglas County location and told them at gunpoint to lie face down on the ground.
"I sat down," she testified. "I told him that I was sorry . . . but whatever happened to me, I had to see his face. He had his gun, he checked the cylinder and he pointed it at me. I said to Mr. Baker . . . that he was a young man; that if he killed us he would be a murderer; that if he killed us he would spend the rest of his life running and being hunted."
Instead of pulling the trigger, Mrs. Horne testified, Baker left the area. After he left, she testified, she told her neighbors to hide and then she ran for help.
The next day, Dec. 5, the bodies of her neighbors, Lester Haley, 87, and his wife, Nancy, 69, were found about five miles northeast of Lecompton.
BAKER, 20, is charged in Douglas County District Court with two counts of first-degree murder and other felony charges, including aggravated kidnapping, in connection with the incident. Mrs. Horne's testimony was the first in Baker's Douglas County preliminary hearing, which will determine whether he should stand trial on the charges.
A Shawnee County District Court jury already has found Baker guilty of first-degree murder and other felony charges in the Dec. 3 death of Ida Mae Dougherty, 72, Topeka. He was given the maximum possible sentence in the crimes, including life imprisonment for the murder.
Authorities allege that Baker and his girlfriend, Lisa Pfannenstiel, 18, broke into Mrs. Dougherty's house Dec. 3 and suffocated the elderly woman by wrapping duct tape around her head. The two then dumped the woman's body in northeast Douglas County and returned to her home, where they spent the night.
Today, Mrs. Horne testified that she and the Haleys went to Mrs. Dougherty's home Dec. 4 to check on her after noticing she hadn't picked up her morning newspaper.
As they searched Mrs. Dougherty's house, Mrs. Horne testified, they entered a guest room and saw Baker, who was armed with a pistol.
Mrs. Horne testified that Baker then marched her and the Haleys into Mrs. Dougherty's car at gunpoint.
BAKER DROVE the three through Topeka and onto Douglas County Road 2190N, also known as River Road.
Baker stopped on River Road and ordered his captives out of the car, Mrs. Horne testified, but when he heard another vehicle approaching, he shouted at them to get back in the car.
After driving a short time, Mrs. Horne said, Baker turned onto a small road and ordered his captives out of the car. He ordered them to walk down the road, which turned into a path, and then told them to stop and lie face down.
Mrs. Horne said that's when she defied Baker. She testified that after she suggested he was not a murderer, he said he did not know whether Mrs. Dougherty was dead. Mrs. Horne said she then encouraged him to check on Mrs. Dougherty. Baker left, and Mrs. Horne ran for help.
Under questioning by Ron Wurtz, Shawnee County public defender who is Baker's attorney, Mrs. Horne testified she did not pick Baker out of a six-man lineup three days after the incident. Instead, she testified, she "focused on" another man who was shorter and not as slender as Baker and never saw Baker.
She testified that she focused on the man because "I thought he could see through my mind. I was terrified."