Archive for Tuesday, November 26, 1991


November 26, 1991


Tyrone Baker, convicted in a killing spree that started nearly two years ago in Topeka and spilled over into Douglas County, pleaded for leniency Monday afternoon.

"Regardless of what the press, state and family members (say) . . . I have deep remorse," the 21-year-old Topeka man told Douglas County District Judge Ralph King.

After hearing Baker's statement, the judge ordered Baker to serve four consecutive life-term prison sentences for two kidnapping and two murder convictions. In addition, King ordered Baker to serve from three to 10 years in prison on the assault conviction.

According to caculations by Frank Diehl, Douglas County assistant district attorney, Baker must serve 63 years before he is eligible for parole. That, coupled with the minimum of 66 years he must serve on a related Shawnee County conviction, means Baker will not be eligible for parole until he's 150 years old.

THE SHAWNEE County sentence stems from the suffocation of Ida Mae Dougherty, 72, Topeka.

The Douglas County convictions stem from the December 1989 kidnappings and shooting deaths of two elderly Topekans, Lester Haley, 87, and his wife, Nancy, 69. The Haleys, who had been kidnapped from Mrs. Dougherty's Topeka home, were shot to death in northwest Douglas County. Baker also kidnapped another Topeka woman, Verne Horne, 70, but she escaped.

As the judge imposed the life sentences, Baker showed little emotion.

Before sentencing, Baker, who had carried in a copy of "A Jailhouse Lawyer's Manual" into the courtroom, told the judge he was taking sole blame for his crimes.

But he told the judge: "This is too much for one person to do.''

He said he knows he has numerous problems to solve.

"This has been as much of a learning experience,'' Baker said, ``as when I first learned to add one and one. . . . A very bad and felonious thing has happened and no one can deny that."

Baker also said he didn't get a fair trial because he is black.

THE MAJORITY of Monday's sentencing hearing was spent hearing motions offered by Baker's attorney, Ron Wurtz of Topeka.

King, saying Baker received a fair trial, denied motions seeking Baker's acquittal, a retrial or dismissal of charges.

Wurtz also asked that Baker be sent to a mental institution, rather than prison. Wurtz said Baker could lead a productive life, even institutionalized, if he gets help.

"He is indeed crying for help," Wurtz said. "He needs to find out what makes him do what he does."

During Baker's trial in August, Baker testified that an alter ego had prodded him to commit the crimes.

Testimony showed that Baker first broke into Mrs. Dougherty's Topeka home, killed her and took her body to northwest Douglas County. When Mrs. Dougherty's neighbors the Haleys and Mrs. Horne got worried because Mrs. Dougherty hadn't brought in her newspaper, they went to check on her.

BAKER WAS back in Mrs. Dougherty's house by then. He took the Haleys and Mrs. Horne to northwest Douglas County, where he shot the Haleys and Mrs. Horne escaped.

Prosecutors said Baker's actions were cold and calculated, not the actions of a man suffering from bouts of psychosis.

Pedro Irigonegaray, assisting prosecuting attorney, said Baker's "eloquent" speech on Monday should be used as evidence to prove he's sane. Irigonegaray, a Topeka attorney, assisted Douglas County Dist. Atty. Jerry Wells during the trial.

"I think it is clearly indicative that he is not psychotic," Irigonegaray said.

Irigonegaray called for life terms in prison for Baker.

"The only way he should leave that prison is in a pine box," Irigonegaray said.

Wells said he was pleased with the trial and sentencing.

"I WALKED out of the courtroom, I guess, with a sigh of relief and a sense that justice had been done in this case. As Mrs. Horne told me, `I'm just glad it's over.'"

Suzanne James, the Haleys' daughter, said she was "elated" about Monday's sentencing.

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