I know many of you have followed this case, but for those who haven’t, it’s about “a Texas minister whose ex-mistress testified that he drugged his wife, handcuffed her to the bed under the guise of spicing up their marriage, then smothered her with a pillow until she died.”
This is a minister who, despite multiple sexual abuse and assault allegations, was able to advance his career through churches, schools, and organizations affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Despite the many troubling reports, no one stopped him. He continued for 16 years . . . until he was finally brought up on murder charges.
Whatever else this trial may eventually show, it has already brought to light the horror in how easily ministers with sexual abuse allegations can church-hop through Baptistland. Investigators claim to have discovered that minister Matt Baker spent years leading “a secret life as a sexual predator.”
The Waco Tribune-Herald has been blogging the trial as it progresses, and you can read the entirety of it there. I’m going to give you just a few excerpts, mainly from the testimony of Vanessa Bulls, who is shown on the witness stand. Her testimony is revealing of some of the common patterns of preacher-predators.
From the Waco Tribune-Herald’s blog of the trial:
9:03 a.m. — The state calls its 27th witness, Vanessa Bulls. . . . Bulls says she is a teacher at a school. Bulls says she was raised “strict Southern Baptist” and went to University of Mary Hardin Baylor. . . . Her father is a minister in music. He worked at Crossroads Baptist Church, where Matt Baker was pastor. She says her father took the position at Crossroads in September of 2005. She says that’s how she got to know Matt and Kari Baker. In September of 2005, she says that she was sitting in the church by herself and asked, casually, about Matt Baker. He told her, “whoever finds you is going to be a lucky man.”
9:09 a.m. — Matt Baker started calling Vanessa Bulls “regularly,” she says. He asked her, she says, whether she needed counseling from her recent divorce. “God can get you through anything,” he told her, she says.
9:20 a.m. — Matt Baker told Vanessa Bulls that, when the Baker’s lived in either Riesel or Axtell, Kari had tried to kill herself. “I was buying into everything. He is a complete, and still is, a manipulative liar. He made me believe everything he was saying. And at my most vulnerable state.” Bulls raised her voice when she said this.
9:26 a.m. — … He had told her that he was going to kill his wife that night, she says. The next morning, Bulls says her mother woke her up and told her that Kari Baker had died. . . . Bulls says she and her family went to the Baker home to see if the pastor was OK. She looked at Matt Baker, she says, and he winked at her.
9:50 a.m. — On August 3, 2006, Vanessa Bulls says that she was interviewed by Det. Ben Toombs of the Hewitt Police Department and denied everything. “I still didn’t think anyone would believe me,” Bulls says. She says she was also afraid that people would find out about the affair. …. Bulls says that she had the “creepiest conversation of my life” with Matt Baker, who was calling from a cell phone. She says she started having a panic attack. At this point, Bulls says that she had found out from police “other things that (Baker) had lied to her about. Bulls says that, in a very “normal” voice he asked how she was. Bulls told Baker to turn himself in and he told her “God has forgiven me.”
11:48 a.m. — In August of 2009, Vanessa Bulls asked Hewitt police whether they were looking for an admission from Matt Baker. She says she knew he would never admit to guilt.
8:30 a.m. — … Matt Baker, 38, is wearing a tie that has “Faith” written on it several times.