News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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January 29, 2013

Trial gets under way today for 1979 cold-case homicide

TERRE HAUTE — Opening statements are to be made this morning in the trial of a Riley man accused in a 1979 cold-case homicide.

Richard L. Boswell Jr., 55, faces charges of murder in Vigo Superior Court 6 in the death of 20-year-old Kathy Jo Baker in a rural area northeast of Riley on May 22, 1979.

Boswell has also been accused of attempting to kill the woman’s then 2-year-old son, Ryan Baker, by striking him in the head and leaving him for dead near his mother’s body.

A 12-person jury was selected from a 75-person jury pool on Monday afternoon, and opening arguments and prosecution testimony are to commence today.

Boswell’s arrest in the now almost 33-year-old case made headlines in October 2010 when Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt conducted a press conference with members of Baker’s family present, and with detectives from the Indiana State Police, to announce the arrest.

The cold case had been reviewed by the Indiana State Police, who used preserved DNA evidence to connect Boswell to the homicide. In April 2008, several items of evidence from the Baker case were sent to the ISP laboratory for DNA analysis, and in March 2010, detectives received lab results showing that DNA evidence found on Baker’s clothing matched Boswell’s DNA profile.

A registered sex offender, Boswell served about 15 years in the Indiana Department of Correction on a 1991 conviction of criminal deviate conduct and criminal confinement. He resided in the Riley area in 1979, and in 2010 he admitted to police that he knew Baker through her brothers and had been to her residence.

Baker’s husband, Kenny, reported his wife and son missing from the family’s home on May 22, 1979. A search of the area was unsuccessful. An aerial search was conducted the next day. Baker’s body was found on the afternoon of May 23 after some local boys who had been fishing in the Riley area reported that they heard a baby or small animal crying in the woods northwest of the Baker residence the night before.

Searchers found Baker’s body and her young son, suffering a severe head injury. An autopsy determined that Baker died of strangulation and asphyxiation.

Police ran down several leads in the case at the time, but no arrests were made and the case went cold. In April 2008, ISP received information about a possible suspect, and the case was re-opened.

Boswell’s defense is being presented by public defenders Luther Garcia and Michael Wright.

The prosecution of the case is being handled by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rob Roberts and trial deputies Michael Adler and Dan McGlone.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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