News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

January 30, 2013

Opening statements focus on DNA

Prosecution says it has Richard Boswell’s DNA on T-shirt; his defense argues other DNA not investigated

TERRE HAUTE — In an opening statement Tuesday in Vigo County Superior Court 6, prosecutors said two witnesses will show that Richard L. Boswell Jr. committed murder and attempted murder in 1979.

Trial deputy Dan McGlone said the first witness is Boswell’s DNA from a spot of blood on a T-shirt. The second witness is the testimony of a convicted murderer, a cellmate of Boswell, who said Boswell admitted to the crime while in the Michigan City state prison.

Boswell, 55, faces charges of murder for the May 22, 1979, death of Kathy Jo Baker, 20, and attempted murder of her son, Ryan Baker, then 21⁄2. Boswell, a registered sex offender, served about 15 years in state prison on a 1991 conviction of criminal deviate conduct and criminal confinement.

Defense attorney Luther Garcia told jurors he is not disputing the finding of DNA, but said police have not investigated two other DNA samples found — one belonging to a woman and a second to another man.

Neither sample, Garcia said, came up in any matching DNA database results. Boswell’s DNA was already in a police database. Garcia said police had a “confirmation bias” looking only for items to back their position. Footprints were also found at the scene, but police did not do a casting of the footprints, nor photograph the footprints using any measurement, such as a ruler, Garcia said.

Garcia said neither were hair samples examined for color that could exclude a suspect.

McGlone said while in prison at Michigan City, Jodi Roy Bennett, who had befriended Boswell at the prison, said Boswell admitted to Bennett that he killed a woman and tried to kill a child. Bennett said he had read about the 2010 arrest of Boswell in the Tribune-Star while in prison and contacted his girlfriend, who then contacted police.

In 2007, Bennett, then 43, who is still serving a 100-year sentence for a double murder of Richard Stephens and Angel Pine, took the stand in another murder trial. In that 2007 trial, Bennett claimed William Allsup Jr. told him in 1993, while Bennett was in the Vigo County Jail awaiting sentencing, that Allsup slayed cab driver Jerry Need. Allsup was later sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Garcia said Bennett was relocated at that time to the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, which is closer to his family. Garcia, who called Bennett “a sociopath… trying to get something he wants,” said Bennett is now back at Michigan City and may again want to return to the Carlisle facility. McGlone said Bennett was not “even offered a glass of water” for his testimony later in the trial.

In opening testimony Tuesday, former Indiana State Police Lt. Charles Ellis testified that Kathy Jo Baker’s naked body was found in a marshy area about 11⁄2 miles north of their former rental house near Riley. She was found face-up wearing a T-shirt pulled up over her torso, with her yellow bikini bottom shoved down her throat. Cattails were all around the body in the marshy ground.

The bikini top was found by her right foot. Her son, Ryan Baker, was found near that foot. Ellis and another officer transported the boy in a police car to meet an ambulance, which took the child to a hospital.

Ellis said police did not initially treat the incident as a homicide. Ellis said he visited the Baker home and saw three hot dogs on the stove, plus soup, as if people were ready to eat. Kathy Jo Baker’s clothes also were laid out on her bed.

Kenny Baker, husband of Kathy and father of Ryan, gave a visibly shaken testimony, hands trembling, often wiping back tears. He said he arrived home just before 6 p.m. on May 22.

Baker said after not finding his wife and child, he called county police, who said they would not, by policy, investigate until 24 hours later. Baker said he then called state police, with Ellis arriving at his home about 8:15 p.m. State police on May 23 conducted a search using a helicopter.

Baker said a fenced area was open and a door to his home. He said the doors were always closed so his son and a puppy at the house would not wander off. He said his wife liked to lie out in the fenced in area to sun tan. He said he and his wife liked to shoot guns. He got his wife a .22 caliber rifle, kept in the kitchen, and she could shoot the couple’s .357 magnum handgun.

Baker said he and Kathy’s family members, along with other friends, began a search by themselves north of their home after the helicopter search failed. Baker, when contacted Tuesday, declined to comment further until after the trial.

Lesley Bowling, a friend of Kenny Baker, found the body of Kathy Jo Baker during a search on May 23. He said she was blue and felt cold. He touched Ryan Baker, who turned his head toward him. Bowling said he leaned down to the mouth of the child to hear him. The boy said he wanted to see his dad and wanted water.

Bowling said he called for help from Kathy Baker’s family, who called for police. Bowling said he and two others had to restrain Kenny Baker, who had left the search earlier to call state police, from going to the scene.

Baker later said his son was in a coma and had an 8-inch cut on the back of his head. Baker stayed with his son for months at Riley Hospital.

Georgia Hunt testified she was a friend of Kathy Jo Baker. The two always talked by telephone between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Hunt had talked to Baker on May 22. In cross examination, Hunt said Kathy Jo Baker spoke her mind and “could hold her own” and was not afraid of confrontations.

The defense asked if anyone had ever made advances toward Kathy Jo Baker. In response, Hunt testified that Kenny Baker’s boss in 1979 had made a sexual reference to her in front of her husband. Hunt said it made her uncomfortable. Hunt in cross examination by the prosecution said Kathy Jo Baker did not indicate she was scared of her husband’s boss.

Former ISP Capt. Donald Null testified to photographs, hair samples, finger nail clippings and solid samples he took at the scene as an evidence clerk and evidence technician. The evidence was entered into the record. In cross examination, Null said foot castings could have been made of footprints at the scene, but were not. Nor were measurement tools used when photographs of footprints were made.

Null said soil samples could be used to show soil found in shoes to be similar to the crime scene.

Testimony continues today at 8:30 a.m.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

 

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