Dannie Baker, the former Republican National Committee Volunteer, Glenn Beck enthusiast and the man charged with killing two Chilean students and wounding three others in February 2009 is scheduled to go to trial April 11. Walton County Circuit Judge on Thursday set the trial date. A pre-trial hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 27. “We’re going to push for the trial to be in April,” Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore said after Wells set the date. “Nothing’s certain because we can’t predict the future. But it’s looking good.”
Baker, 61, is being held at the Walton County Jail. He was arrested Feb. 26, 2009, just hours after he murdered 22-year-old Racine Argandona and 23-year-old Nicholas Corp-Torres at Summer Lake town home complex on Scenic Gulf Drive in Miramar Beach. At the time, he told neighbors he was going to kill Mexican illegal immigrants. The Chilean students -- here in the country legally -- were visiting a friend when lawmen say Baker fired a rifle through one of the unit’s windows about 1:45 a.m.
Three other students, Sebastian Arizaga-Suarez, David Bilboa-Meza and Francisco Cofre-Fernandez were wounded in the shooting. After the shooting, Baker barricaded himself in his town home at the same complex until he surrendered shortly after 6 a.m., according to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.
Baker is charged with two counts of premeditated first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, three counts of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm and shooting into an occupied building. Baker was committed to Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee for mental evaluation and treatment for over a year, attempting to play the "crazy card." However, much to Baker's disappointment, he was determined competent in August 2010 to stand trial.
The three students who were wounded returned to Chile. Elmore said they likely will be called to testify at Baker’s trial. Elmore said the state will seek the death penalty.
Roberto Rivera of Destin spoke with Elmore after the date was set. “From what I’ve been told it looks good for April,” said Rivera, who has kept in touch with two of the students who were wounded. “He can still possibly relapse and the trial won’t begin. For the family, this is going to be a very significant event.
“We all thought he would be playing the crazy card for five years.” Rivera looked around the courtroom and shook his head. He said media attention has declined since the shootings occurred, but the case should resonate with people throughout the community. “This was a national disaster,” he said. “Those kids have had medical issues, psychological issues, and I’m the only one here (for this case). It’s disgraceful. “He (Baker) has to pay for what he’s done, and everyone should care about that.”
Note to Readers: "Immigration Talk with a Mexican American" will continue to follow this trial until the Court Decision and Penalty Phase are announced.