Kari, the wife of pastor Matt Baker, died at the young age of 31. People took the pastor’s word that he was innocent of his wife’s death, but there were those who weren’t quite sure.
“I know if she were sitting here she would look at you and say ‘He didn’t do anything. Leave him alone.’ But she can’t,” Matt told Baker “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty. “It’s so improbable. It’s not who I am. I loved my wife. I never hurt her a day in my life.”
Kari and Matt had been together for years, since they met at a Baptist day camp in 1994. They were young, in love and planning to be together forever.
“I would have been 23 and she was 20,” Baker said. “I met her and I thought, ‘This is the person for me.’”
Kari came home and told her parents that she’d found a good Christian man and that she wanted to be with him for life.
“‘Mom, this guy’s a really good Christian,’” said Linda Dulin, Kari’s mother.
The two got married just three months after meeting one another, which some might feel to be a bit too soon. Kari was pregnant by the time their marriage hit the one year mark. She had their second child just a year and a half later.
“She loved her girls,” Linda said. “You know, you know how you feel. There are no words.”
Then came the troubled waters. The couple’s daughter Kassidy was diagnosed with a brain tumor right after her first birthday. The poor child died in February, 1999.
“To sit there and struggle that far. To come what I thought was so far to watch her die… that was devastating. It really was a very hard, hard thing to cope with,” Baker said.
The couple had a third daughter, Grace, in 2000. But Matt says that his wife couldn’t get over the loss of her second child.
“I don’t think it was a split second, all of a sudden she was completely different. It was a gradual changing of the person,” he explained. “She had – almost two personalities in a way. Not negative. But when she went to work she had the ability to put issues behind her and focus on work.”
“The other personality was a little bit more withdrawn at home,” Baker said.
Matt says that because of his wife’s issues, he was the primary caregiver for their other two children. He also says that his wife began to rely on pills to be able to sleep. He says that she would sometimes use Unisom, an over-the-counter medication. But there were times when she would borrow a stronger drug in order to sleep.
In 2006, according to Matt, Kari was feeling queasy after a job interview. She drank a wine cooler and then put the kids to bed. After that, she asked her husband to go rent a movie.
“And I thought, ‘It’s late. All right, but I’ll do it. If your wife asks you, do what your wife asks.’ And so I got dressed and left the house a little after 11:00,” he recalled.
“It’s probably about two miles to the first gas station that I could fill up at. And got out. Pumped the gas … Went up to the movie place. Rented a movie … and drove back home.”
He says that when he got home, the door was locked. He used a screw driver to open the door and found his wife lying on the bed naked. When he realized that she wasn’t responsive, he began to perform CPR on her.
The was a bottle of sleeping pills next to the bed. He also allegedly found this note:
“I am so sorry,” it read, “I love you Matt … I want to give Kassidy a hug. I need to feel her again.”
“The detective that night — pulled me into the kitchen. He goes, ‘Well, she took her own life. There’s a note. There’s pills… There’s no signs of struggle. It’s pretty obvious what happened.’ And that point my heart sunk. I couldn’t believe it. That was the first time for sure that’s what they claimed it to be,” said Baker.
The small town doesn’t have a medical examiner, so police simply described the crime scene to a judge, who declared that the woman died from a drug overdose. No autopsy was performed. Two days afterward, she was buried.
But the story wasn’t over yet.
“We wanted to clear Kari’s name,” Kari’s aunt, Nancy, told Moriarty. “Matt was going around talking about what a depressed, suicidal person she was. We knew she wasn’t.”
Even Kari’s parents say that they were surprised that she would kill herself.
“We kept trying to convince ourselves,” Linda said. “What other alternative was there? The idea that Matt could have taken her life was more horrible.”
But Kari’s aunt believes that her husband is responsible for Kari’s death.
“He killed her,” Linda’s younger sister, Nancy, said. “Kari loved her life. She loved her family. She would never have left those girls.”
The family disputes Kari’s husband’s claim that she was sick and that she asked him to rent a movie. They don’t believe that a sick, tired woman would ask her husband to go rent a movie. They also don’t believe she would have left behind her two girls, she loved them too much. Finally, they claim that she didn’t take Unisom, and actually took a generic brand instead.
Another kicker: Kari’s former grief counselor reportedly stated that Kari believed her husband was having an affair and was trying to kill her. She even said so just three days before her death.
Back in 1996, a neighbor, DeeAnn Avalos said the preacher tried to pick up her 16-year-old daughter.
“He asked, ‘Have you ever been kissed by a boy?’ She said, ‘Yes,’ and he just suddenly grabbed her and kissed her right on the lips,” said Avalos.
Baker had been warned about his behavior in the past, losing jobs for coming onto women too aggressively.
“Every time he’d move from a job, I would think — he did something to someone,” said Nancy.