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Baseball-bat murderer gets 47-year sentence

Former Grundy State’s Attorney Neal handled sentencing

Daniel Baker, who was convicted of the April 1, 2010, baseball bat murder of a 50-year-old Lake County woman, has been sentenced to 47 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Former Grundy County State’s Attorney Dave Neal, a special prosecutor with the office of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, was appointed by the Lake County Circuit Court to take over the sentencing of the defendant, as a result of a motion by the Lake County State’s Attorney to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

The defendant had been found guilty but mentally ill following a bench trial.

This case received a great deal of local and national publicity due to the brutal nature of the crime and because the defendant was the subject of a national manhunt, avoiding apprehension while traveling with the murder victim’s daughter.

Baker, who was represented by Chicago attorney Edward Genson, was first the subject of a hearing to determine whether he was mentally fit for sentencing. Lake County Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes found the defendant fit and proceeded with sentencing.

Special Prosecutor Neal recommended a sentence of natural life without parole due to the “sheer brutality and wanton cruelty meted out by a rage that is beyond the comprehension of all but the most evil among us.”

Neal argued that the victim was struck in the head and face with an aluminum baseball bat between six and 15 times, resulting in “horrific injuries and a gruesome death.”

“The defendant struck her while she was dying, and after she was dead, then left the murder weapon on the bed next to his victim, ensuring that it would be discovered by her family,” Neal said.

Defense attorney Genson argued for leniency, stressing a long history of mental illness by the defendant, as well as the defendant’s “complete lack any prior criminal history at all.”

In sentencing the 25-year-old defendant to 47 years in prison, the judge noted that the defendant must serve 100 percent of the sentence.

Neal praised the judge for his handling of this difficult case, calling the lengthy sentence “absolutely justified.”

“I am hopeful that Daniel Baker will never again be a threat to civilized society,” Neal concluded.

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