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Archive for Sunday, July 27, 2003

Police will fight strangler’s parole

Murderer has served 11 years for Lawrence victim’s death

July 27, 2003

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Tyrone Walker's family is ready for him to come home.

Walker pleaded no contest in 1992 to the strangling death of Tamara Baker, whose decomposed body was found in a wooded area in east Lawrence. Today, nearly 11 years after Walker's conviction, he's a model inmate at the El Dorado Correctional Facility with an interest in computers, according to his parole plan.

He proposes being paroled in October, then going to live with his mother at her home near St. Louis.

Lawrence Police Lt. Dan Affalter, however, is doing his part to make sure that doesn't happen. So is Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney.

"It took us longer to bring this person to justice than any other case I can remember," said Affalter, who supervises the Lawrence Police Department's investigations division. "I have a tremendous amount of investment in this guy, and so do several other people that work here. I don't think he belongs out on the street, certainly not after 11 years."

In an e-mail, Kenney told the Journal-World her office also formally was opposed to parole for Walker, given the violent nature of his crime.

Affalter said he was against the parole in part because Walker plans to live with his mother, Faye Walker, whom Affalter claims in the past has helped her son hide out from the law.

The detective said one reason Walker came to Lawrence in the late 1980s was that his mother and other family members helped him to find a place to live here knowing he was wanted for a probation violation in Missouri.

Faye Walker, reached by telephone in California, where she was celebrating another son's return from military service in Iraq, denied Affalter's allegation.

"He's lying," she said. "I tried to get him not to leave."

Walker's aunt, Frances Jorden of Webster Groves, Mo., agreed, saying Faye Walker had "nothing to do" with Tyrone Walker leaving Missouri to come to Kansas before the murder.

"He may have had a parole violation or something, but it wasn't nothing that he had to run away from," she said.

Affalter wasn't swayed.

"They can say what they want," he said. "I don't care. That's not the way we understand it."

The murder

Tamara Baker, a 25-year-old native of Trinidad whose last listed address was in the 1100 block of Connecticut Street, disappeared Halloween night in 1989. Police found her body the next spring, in a brushy area south of the 800 block of East Eighth Street.

They began looking for Walker, a man police learned Baker had met about a week before her disappearance.

In late May 1990, a warrant was issued for Walker's arrest, and Lawrence detectives began a series of trips to New York City to hunt Walker, whom they said had disappeared into the city's public-housing system.

They didn't catch up with him until March 1992, when a New York City police officer went to a homeless shelter to recruit people to be paid $10 to participate in a police lineup. Walker volunteered, and the officer recognized him from a photo the Lawrence Police Department had sent to his precinct.

Later, at a preliminary hearing, a Lawrence detective testified Walker admitted strangling Baker because she threatened to tell Baker's wife about their sexual relationship.

Parole hopes

Walker originally was charged with first-degree murder but was allowed to plead to the lesser charge of second-degree murder. The murder was Walker's first and only felony offense, his attorney said at the time, and he drew a sentence of 12 years to life imprisonment from then-District Judge James Paddock.

That was in October 1992, less than a year before the state's new sentencing laws took effect. Under the old laws, Walker first became eligible for parole after six years, or half the length of the minimum sentence.

He failed to receive parole in 1998 and tried again in 2001, but Affalter said he sensed that this time around, Walker would be considered a viable candidate.

Walker will go before the Parole Board Aug. 11 and, if approved, will be eligible for release in October.

In deciding who gets paroled, the board considers factors including the crime, the inmate's disciplinary record and public comment.

"Parole eligibility is not necessarily the same as parole suitability," said Colene Fischli, the state's parole administrator.

Under current sentencing guidelines, a defendant with no prior felonies who was convicted of second-degree murder would have to serve at least nine years before becoming eligible for parole.

Family's view

Members of Baker's family could not be reached for comment.

Jorden, Walker's aunt, said her nephew had been participating in a work-release program at prison. Jorden said she didn't believe Walker could have killed someone, and Jorden broke into tears as she described what it would mean to have him home.

"I know everybody would be glad for him to come home, because he has sisters, and they're all married and have families now," she said. "I really think that kid has been gone too long."

Affalter isn't convinced. By the end of the month, he said, he'll submit a written form opposing Walker's parole.

"I have burglars that I caught in the late '70s, early '80s, that have done more time than this guy," Affalter said. "He doesn't have near as extensive a criminal history as others I've seen, but he does have a criminal history, and he's also a murderer."

-- Staff writer Eric Weslander can be reached at 832-7146.

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