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More testimony heard in Baker murder trial

Joliet police officer, ISP crime scene investigator take stand

The apartment on Twilight Drive where Daniel Smiley was found dead March 8, 2019.
The apartment on Twilight Drive where Daniel Smiley was found dead March 8, 2019.

MORRIS — A Joliet Police officer and an Illinois State Police Crime Scene Investigator were called as witnesses by the prosecution Friday afternoon as the murder trial of Kasim Baker continued at Grundy County Courthouse. Baker, 33, of Joliet is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the death of Daniel Smiley, 55, of Morris, on March 8, 2019.

Before the two law enforcement officers took the stand, however, an acquaintance of Baker testified under the questioning of Assistant State's Attorney Mike Quinlan. Kylina Verbeck, 24, of Joliet said that on the night of March 8, 2019, she and Baker were at Big Al's House, a location she categorized as a crack house, in Joliet, and smoked crack together. Verbeck said she noticed that Baker was holding his left arm inside of his shirt. When she asked him what happened, she said Baker told her he "did something wrong."

She testified that he went on to say that he had killed a man in Morris and that he had cut his hand in the process. She also said that Baker told her that he never should have done it.

Grundy County Public Defender Gary Dobbs then cross-examined Verbeck, asking her if she knew that at one point she was considered a suspect. She said she was aware. Dobbs also asked Verbeck if she ever knew Baker to become violent when he smoked crack, and she said no. Verbeck also said that she was not promised anything in exchange for her testimony and that she was not at Smiley's house the night of the murder.

State's Attorney Jason Helland then called Daniel Hunt, who placed the initial 911 call after he found Smiley in his apartment. He said that Smiley regularly left his door ajar in order for his cat to come and go, so he was not surprised to see it cracked open that morning. Hunt, a maintenance technician at the apartment complex where Smiley lived, said that a pest control man was performing routine control in the complex, so Hunt pushed in Smiley's door to give the pest control man access. Upon opening the door, Hunt saw Smiley on the floor of the apartment and called 911. The state then played the 911 call for the jury.

Helland asked Hunt if he was familiar with Smiley's TV, and Hunt said that he had helped him install it. Hunt then said that he noticed that the TV was not in the apartment when he found Smiley.

Helland then called Joliet Police officer Brent Pocewicz. Pocewicz testified that he answered a call around 11:30 a.m. on March 8, 2019, and responded to 658 Grant St. in Joliet. There, he found a man, Kasim Baker, who had lacerations on his left hand from what he said was a drug deal gone bad. Pocewicz said that Baker told him that he met two males in a black Chevy Impala, but that Baker did not have enough money for the amount of cocaine he wanted to buy. Baker thought that the money he did have should buy him more cocaine than the men were offering and an argument ensued, which resulted in Baker's hand being lacerated.

Baker was transported to Silver Cross Hospital, at which point Pocewicz said he got a more detailed statement and closed the call.

Assistant State's Attorney Pete Sienna then questioned Illinois State Police Crime Scene Investigator Daniel Garcia. Garcia responded to the call for a death investigation at 815 Twilight Drive in Morris on March 8, 2019. He testified that he processed the scene, beginning by taking photographs of the scene, then making observations and collecting evidence. The jury was shown 58 photographs of the scene.

Sienna then asked Garcia to open an evidence box which contained a knife with blood and hair on it that was found at the scene and had him display the knife to the jury. Then, there was a dish detergent bottle that had blood stains on it that was also displayed to the jury.

On cross-examination, Dobbs asked Sienna why there was a picture of a lampshade with a blood stain on it, but the blood from the lamp shade was not tested. Garcia said he did not see a need to test it. Dobbs also pointed out that in a picture of a knife block, there were two knives missing from the block. He asked if another knife was found at the scene and Garcia said there was not.

On re-direct, Sienna asked Garcia if they treat a scene differently if it is a death investigation or a homicide. Garcia said that they treat all deaths as death investigations as it us unknown whether a death is a homicide or not.

Judge Lance Peterson then adjourned the court until Monday morning at 9:30.

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