Wife guilty in slaying

Barbara Baker had two million reasons to kill her husband.

A jury in District Judge Lee Gates’ courtroom found the 45-year-old woman guilty of first-degree murder Thursday for the January 2006 slaying of her husband, Charlie Simms.

Baker stood to gain $2 million in the event of her husband’s death and nothing if they divorced.

Baker has maintained her innocence. She told police she was in California from Jan. 17-21 and arrived home to find her husband’s dead body in the couple’s bed.

Her attorney, Richard Salas, said he plans to appeal.

Salas focused on a painter the couple had hired before Simms’ death as an alternative suspect. Baker told police she and the painter, Eli Orr, had a heated argument before she left town.

Orr told police he got a voice message from Baker on Jan. 17 at 6:30 a.m., telling him not to come over to finish painting because there had been an emergency and the couple would be out of town for a few days.

Orr told police he went to the house on Jan. 19, entered the back yard, sanded a gate and painted the trim of the house while Baker was away.

“Why would a tradesman come over when the wife tells him not to?” Salas asked.

Prosecutor Robert Daskas scoffed at the idea, noting nothing except the couple’s gun collection, which was kept in a safe, was taken from the house.

“He decided to do a little extra work before he (Orr) offed him?” Daskas said sarcastically.

A gun registered to Baker that matched the caliber of bullet found in Simms’ skull was found in California, seven miles from where she was staying. Salas said it was a coincidence.

Days before the trial began, Daskas said, attorneys learned Baker had traveled back to Nevada on Jan. 19 for a “make-out session” with her Internet boyfriend, who lives in Las Vegas, before returning to her vacation in California.

On the witness stand, Baker said she never went home to visit her husband during her one-day trip on Jan. 19 and had no idea he had been killed.

But police and prosecutors believe she shot her husband in the back of the head and beat him with the butt of a gun sometime between Jan. 17 and 21, then made it appear as if she were gone during the time of the murder, saving receipts and brochures of places she visited in Southern California.

“Our biggest concern was overcoming the obstacle of her appearance,” Daskas said following the verdict. “She doesn’t look like a killer.”

With her circular spectacles, down-turned lips and crooked nose, Baker looks like a dowdy librarian.

Prosecutors tried to portray a different image. They placed two men, including her Las Vegas boyfriend, on the stand. The men testified Baker, while married to Simms, would have cyber-sex and expose herself via video over the Internet.

Members of the Red Hat Society, a woman’s social organization, testified that Baker told them she needed a hit man and could not divorce Simms because she would receive nothing. Baker is a member of the Pink Hat Society, Salas said, a group affiliated with the Red Hat Society.

Before he retired and moved to Las Vegas from the East Coast, Simms worked as a cook. He had inherited money, but Baker, who married Simms in 2000, wasn’t entitled to any if he divorced her, said Simms’ cousin, Tim Plumer, 48, of Maryland.

The couple’s house was also in Simms’ name.

Although, he never got a “warm fuzzy feeling” from Baker, Plumer said he never suspected she had a violent streak.

“She needs to spend the rest of her life under the jail, in the ground,” Plumer said. “I don’t care, she just needs to go to prison the rest of her life. It was a cowardly act.”

Baker faces 40 years to life, life without the possibility of parole or 40-100 years in prison at sentencing Sept. 5.

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