Matt Baker's daughter testifies in custody hearing


Posted: Jul 13, 2011 9:48 PM EDT<em class="wnDate">Wednesday, July 13, 2011 9:48 PM EST</em>Updated: Jul 13, 2011 10:55 PM EDT<em class="wnDate">Wednesday, July 13, 2011 10:55 PM EST</em>
Matt Baker's older daughter says she wants to live with Barbara and Oscar Baker in Kerrville, where she is happy and has a good life.
She testified Wednesday in the hearing over who should have custody of the children of the former central Texas pastor convicted of killing his wife.
His former in-laws, Jim and Linda Dulin, are in court trying to gain custody of their granddaughters.
First on Wednesday the attorneys for the Bakers called Oscar to testify.
He said Kari Baker's death was horrible, and that she was like a daughter to them.
During cross-examination, Baker told the Dulins lawyer he didn't know why former foster children would testify he sexually abused them, except that maybe they wanted a free trip down to Kerrville.
Following Oscar a number of friends of the Dulin's from Kerrville testified, including a school counselor, that they are good people, and loving parents.
A former foster boy said there was a good environment inside the home, and that no abuse ever took place.
Then the Baker's attorneys called Dr. Theron Hawkins, a urologist and Baker family friend.
He not only testified that the Bakers were good people who ran a good foster home, but also that earlier claims from former foster child Millie Von Steenburg that he sexually abused her were not true.
Then, during cross examination, the Dulin's lawyer asked if Hawkins opinion as a urologist is that you would have to see a man's genitals to know if he was circumcised or not.
The question was in reference to Von Steenburg's claim that Oscar raped her, and that she remembered he was not circumcised.
Hawkins said that was the only way to know if someone was or wasn't circumcised, unless the person made a really good guess.
A lawyer for the Bakers then asked if it was common for men born inside the home in the 1930's to be uncircumcised.
Hawkins said it was common, though he was born in the 1930's inside the home, and he insinuated that he is circumcised, so both were possible, giving more credibility to Von Steenburg's testimony of sexual abuse.
Then former case workers that worked in the Bakers foster home and a former nurse who served as the relief foster parent when the Bakers wanted a weekend off testified that they knew of no abuse in the home, and that the children seemed happy, and well taken care of.
However they did admit that while unlikely, abuse could have taken place without them knowing about it.
Following that, the Baker's former pediatrician testified that he didn't treat the Baker's biological or foster children very often, and that when he did it was for nothing out of the ordinary, including any signs of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
During cross examination though he did admit that if a girl had been inappropriately touched or kissed there would be no evidence for him to uncover.
Next the Baker's attorneys called Oscar and Barbara's daughter, Matt's sister, Stacie Segars to testify.
She and Matt did not receive special treatment growing up, according to Stacie, and no abuse or even harsh punishment took place in the home.
During cross examination though she did tell the Dulin's lawyer she hasn't written, called, or visited Matt since he went to prison, though Stacie said there was no specific reason why, and nothing bad happened between the two of them.
At this point, more than a dozen teenagers, mainly girls, filed into the courtroom, and filled more than three rows.
Friends of Matt Baker's older daughter, they came to show support, and with them, about a dozen other people also came to watch, some County workers in the courthouse, other's, just curious citizens.
After a short recess, the attorney representing the interest of Matt Baker's daughters called his older daughter to testify.
With blond hair just below her shoulders, and a braid on top, her eyes were sunken, and her face very solemn.
Immediately after questioning began, she started to become emotional.
She told the jury that after moving to Kerrville, they would visit the Dulin's once a month.
She never referred to them as Grammy or Papa, only Jim and Linda, while she did call the Baker's her grandparents.
After about six months, she became worried about their visits and told a counselor about Linda, "I don't feel we have a very good relationship with each other. We don't get along. We tend to argue about small stuff and we don't have a loving relationship."
She said the tension with their maternal grandparents really built shortly after Matt Baker's conviction in January 2010.
During their next visit to Waco in February 2010, she recorded on her phone a conversation between the Dulin's and the two girls, and they played that conversation in court.
During the recess while they set up the CD, she went over to Barbara, and was talking and laughing with her.
While she stood just inches behind her father, she didn't appear to say anything to him.
On the recording, the conversation starts off peacefully, with Linda telling the girls, "It is time to come back to each other. It is time to grab all the love you can get because it's all there is. We don't want anger"
Then she told the girls something that has also been the Dulin's main point in court, "If nothing else matters this weekend, you need to know that all we want...from you is to be part of your lives and make you whole and healthy again."
That's why they told the jury they wanted custody of the girls now, to make them whole and healthy.
However on the recording that's where the tension starts, with her older granddaughter telling Linda, "I don't want to move to Waco. If you really want me to be happy then leave us in Kerrville."
Linda responded though by telling the girls, "There are things that are missing and you may not realize it right now...One of the things you're missing is that your mom loves you, your mom has never left you, and it's time to remember your mom and her family and to take back the joy in your life."
Then she asks her older granddaughter if she can give her a hug, and she tells Linda no.
To that Linda asks, "Where did it come from that you were taught to hate us? And how healthy is that?"
Her older granddaughter replies, "You took my dad away less than three weeks ago and you expect me to love you. It doesn't work that way."
The conversation continues with Linda saying, "It's because your dad took your mom," and her older granddaughter replying, "Y'all had no freaking evidence. It was all made up. I'm not stupid."
The Dulin's try to tell their granddaughters that someday they'll see the evidence, but they need to see a trained counselor to be able to understand what happened.
When the recording ended the granddaughter was again crying, and said hearing Linda talk about making the girls "whole and healthy" makes her angry.
She talked about different counseling she's gone through, including a group program that the two girls and Matt went through, and she said she's grieved for her Mom's death.
Crying again, she said she has a lot of memories about her mom, and nobody has tried to take them away.
The girls watch home videos of Kari, and she keeps a picture of her in her Bible case and a memory box under her bed with items that belonged to Kari.
Then the conversation moved to Matt's guilt or innocence.
She believes her dad is innocent, saying about Kari's death, "I don't believe my Dad killed her, and I don't believe that she meant to kill herself."
However she said because of everything bad she's heard or read about the Dulin's saying about Matt, "As of right now I don't want monthly visitations with them. Maybe a few days in the summer and during winter break but not once a month."
She talked about how hurtful it was for the girls to go to the Dulin's celebration after Matt was convicted, and see people partying and drinking alcohol.
She said when the Dulin's take trips, they never invite the girls, and they don't call or write except cards on their birthdays and Christmas.
She then talked about how full her life is in Kerrville, how she has a lot of friends, and is very involved with school and church.
She's afraid if the girls are forced to move back to Waco, everyone there will know her back story, and judge her immediately.
In Kerrville she already has established friends who knew her before they knew her story.
She also talked briefly about Jim, noticing a change in him, saying, "He's gotten more stressed out and he tends to snap easier."
While she's closest with Barbara, about Oscar she said, "He's smart and funny and he cares about [the girls]."
During cross examination, the Dulin's attorney presented a story she wrote before her mother's death where she called the Dulin's home her favorite place.
Then he presented a note she wrote following her mothers death where she said, "I hate Linda and Jim."
When the lawyer pressed about what lead to it, she said, "They took my dad away from me."
During this testimony Jim and Linda sat close, with Jim's arm around her shoulder.
The hearing is expected to wrap up Thursday in the 198th District Court in the Kerr County Courthouse, though it could run into Friday if the jury needs more time.