Jenny Baka – Domestic Violence led to Wrongful Conviction of Second Degree Murder

My name is Jenny. I am a survivor of three years of brutal domestic violence with a man I met right after my high school graduation. During that time, I survived broken bones, homelessness, days in the ICU and ultimately losing my own son. However, I am fortunate to be alive, since he killed two other people in my presence without my knowledge. Because of my association with him, I am in prison for 27-50 years for second-degree murder. I went to prison when I was 22-years-old. I just celebrated my 40th birthday with other inmates on June 6, 2017.

Being in prison gives you plenty of time to reflect back on your life. I had a notion that you had to please a man at all costs. It never crossed my mind to demand that a man respect me. Instead of walking away the first time I was verbally abused and hit, I stayed with the hope that it was an isolated incident. It never was.

I graduated from high school and moved with my parents to another town, where I didn’t know anyone. I worked two jobs, so I could save up enough money to move out on my own. Rick was a towering man at six feet five inches tall and used to stop by my place of employment to flirt and talk to me during my shift. I was eventually comfortable enough to let him show me around the area and give me rides home from work. I confided in him my desire to move out of my parent’s home. He assured me that if I ever did move, he would be glad to help me out.

Our relationship became more serious. I met all of his friends. I wanted to be a part of that crowd since we had a lot of fun times. I had some challenging times with my family and Rick came to my rescue, just like he promised. We moved in together. But it didn’t last since I saw a jealous and possessive side of him that made me very uncomfortable. That was my first attempt to cut off contact with him.

Rick went as far as to call my family and harass them to find out where I was. Therefore, my parents put a Personal Protection Order (PPO) on him. He questioned everyone we knew. I finally gave in, went to dinner with him and agreed to give our relationship another try. He found a job for me as a nanny. We moved into our own apartment and our relationship was in a good place for a period of time. That was until I got a job as a waitress.

Rick would sit outside of the restaurant and watch me while I worked. He accused me of flirting with customers and questioned everything that I did. He then started making excuses to keep me from going to work and I lost my job.

One night we got into a huge argument. Rick went completely wild and insane. He punched me, choked me, broke my stereo, smashed up my dishes and ripped up my pictures and clothes. As soon as I hung up from calling the police, he ripped the phone right out of the wall. When the police showed up, one of the officers looked at me and asked, “What did you do to piss him off?”

They took both of us to jail. I was questioned by a detective and released to go home. We were given a no-contact order. As soon as Rick was released, he came back to the apartment and begged my forgiveness. He repeatedly promised that he would never do it again.

Unfortunately, that was the beginning of a vicious cycle of beatings and calls to the police. If he wasn’t abusing me physically, he was doing it mentally. Rick was overly jealous, twisted my words, put me down in front of people, degraded me, called me names, made humiliating remarks and told me it was my fault that he abused me. I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem to start with. However, it was down to zero in no time. I became so depressed that I tried taking my own life by overdosing on drugs. Rick found me unconscious and rushed me to the hospital, where I had my stomach pumped. As soon as I was released from the hospital, I returned home with him. I was mentally, emotionally and physically in such a weakened state, that I actually felt trapped.

I found out that I was pregnant. I had always dreamed of being a mom. However, I was scared to bring a child into my world, where fists and bruises replaced hugs and kisses. Words were nothing more than weapons of destruction to my heart and soul. Rick then decided to rent a farmhouse miles from town, where I would be isolated from everyone. I didn’t have a phone or vehicle. He would leave early in the morning for his job in landscaping, and not return home until late at night.

When I was six months pregnant, I decided to leave the house and go to work with Rick. We stopped at a gas station and a car full of girls drove up next to us. One of the girls looked at me sarcastically and asked me what I was doing with her man. Everyone laughed at me, including Rick, which made me furious. When we drove off, he admitted that he had been cheating with the girl. I told him I hated him and to let me out of the truck. He immediately flew into a violent rage, leaned over me, grabbed the door handle and pushed me out of a moving vehicle.

I woke up in the hospital ICU. Evidently, Rick told the police I jumped out while he was driving since I was trying to commit suicide. My face was so badly bruised and swollen, that I was unrecognizable. I had blood caked in my hair, broken bones and stitches on several areas of my body. My clothes had been cut off from me, so I had to wear hospital scrubs when it was time to leave the hospital. My friend picked me up and dropped me off at the house, where I slept for hours. I woke up to Rick standing over me. He had no compassion whatsoever. He didn’t even ask me how I was feeling. He told me to get out since I looked like a freak show. So I left, once again.

Before long Rick begged for my forgiveness. He told me how much he changed and pleaded with me to take him back. I was pregnant, vulnerable and really wanted to believe that he would change since I was having his baby. Things were good between us for a while and I enjoyed our relationship.

The day finally came when I gave birth to a baby boy. What would be a joyous occasion for most couples, only brought out the worst in Rick. He became very jealous of the attention that I gave our son. He refused to help me take care of him since he said it’s a woman’s job. My son was colicky and cried all the time. It was also very hard to feed him since he was allergic to every formula that I tried.

Rick was a pro at manipulating me. We needed extra money. Therefore, Rick asked me to write checks out of my checking account, even though I didn’t have money it in. He assured me that I would never get in trouble. He said that he would cover it when he got paid. I foolishly believed him and wrote several bad checks.

After a few months, I had to go to court. I couldn’t post bond, so I ended up in jail. The judge said he would release me on bond if I agreed to reside at a domestic violence shelter until my next court date. My attorney kept telling me that my son would be able to stay at the shelter with me, but she never got it approved. After several weeks, Rick found where I was staying and started stalking me. He drove by all the time and called the pay phone at the shelter. I felt like I would never be free of him.

Rick told me that our son had a life-threatening illness and required major surgery. I believed him, packed up my stuff and left with him. As soon as we got to his house, he became extremely violent. He beat me up and forced himself on me sexually. He would wake me up in the night. If I tried to fight him off, he would put a gun to my head.

I took off with another girlfriend to live in another town. We were happy to be rid of our abusive boyfriends. We had been away exactly one month when Rick and the other boyfriend pulled up out of nowhere while we were walking down the street. They stopped the truck, pointed guns at us and told us to get into Rick’s truck. On the drive back, they slapped, punched and choked us. They told us how stupid we were, for thinking we could get away from them. They threatened to kill us if we ever tried it again.

When we arrived at Rick’s house, we were taken to separate areas of the house so they could take full advantage of abusing us. Then they made us have sex with them. The next morning, Rick profusely apologized. He told me if I would stop running off, he wouldn’t have to keep putting me in line. He told me that I would always be his. He was obsessed.

I tried to avoid Rick at all costs and moved in with friends. However, his persistence wore me down again and again. One time I let him take me for a ride. He drove as fast as possible down back roads, swerving and driving recklessly. He was in a rage and told me that he would kill both of us because he had nothing to live for. I had to lie to him to try and calm him down.

On another occasion, I agreed to go to a movie with him. The next thing you know, he took me out of state. I always had to tell him everything he wanted to hear, just to get him to calm down and take me back to my friend’s home.

As time went by, I met another guy. I moved in with him and his five-year-old son. My life was going really well for a while. Then Rick showed up out of nowhere. My boyfriend forgot to lock the front door when he went to work. I was taking a shower when suddenly Rick pulled me out of the shower and started choking me. He followed this up with a beating in front of my boyfriend’s son and two other little girls, who had spent the night at our house.

Rick’s last and final act of violence against me, changed my life in the blink of an eye. Rick saw me at the laundromat one afternoon. I could see the anger on his face, the minute he walked in the door. He told me that he had a bad argument with his parents since they were kicking him out of the house and selling his truck.

I started to leave and got caught in the rain. Rick grabbed my arm. I tried pulling away from him while telling him that he was scaring me. He told me to come to his parents’ house since I had dry clothes there and could change. I went to the bedroom to change my clothes when I heard Rick yelling and fighting with his dad. I walked into the room and Rick demanded that I give him the cordless phone and I did. He then told me to get a knife. I was in fear and shock. I instantly obeyed and threw a knife by him. I didn’t see what happened next, but Rick had stabbed his father multiple times. I ran down the stairs to check on his father when I heard his mother scream. She was upstairs in the bathroom. Rick had run up the stairs and used the same knife to slice her throat.

I was horrified and had no idea that he would kill his own parents. He immediately cleaned everything up. Rick grabbed my hand. He told me that I had to go with him to get rid of the clothes and weapon. He then looked at me and said, “If I go down, you’ll go down with me. If I can’t have you, no one else will either.”

Rick called the police and made up a story. He told me I had to back him up. However, after hours of questioning with detectives, I broke down and told them everything. I took them to the park where the clothes and weapon were hidden. They housed me in a hotel under the guise of “witness protection” for a week. I had no communication with the outside world and no charges were filed against me. The detective told my mother, that I wasn’t a suspect and they had nothing on me. I was 22-years-old at the time. I didn’t have an attorney because I couldn’t afford to hire one. The detective manipulated me into believing that they were my trustworthy protectors and advisors.

Rick found out that I wasn’t arrested. Therefore, he lied by putting the full blame of his parents’ murder on me. I was shocked to learn that after all my efforts to cooperate, I was actually arrested for open murder. I had even passed a lie detector test that I was given to by the state police. Rick made good use of his threat to take me down with him. It was working. At the preliminary examination, the prosecution said “it is not our theory that Jenny did the actual killings. However, the evidence is going to show that she is culpable as an aide and abettor.”

I was urged by the prosecutor to take a plea deal. My attorney did not provide a very strong defense and pressured me into accepting a plea bargain. He did not want to go to trial to fight on my behalf. He said that a plea was my only option. I was never informed how much time I would get in prison. Even though the prosecution used me a “chief lead witness” at Rick’s trial, they turned around and sentenced me to 27-50 years for second-degree murder.

My son turned one year old and my parental rights were terminated. Rick’s sister adopted my son and agreed to keep in contact. However, I never heard from her nor did I ever see my son again.

Eventually, I found out that Rick had been a problem child his whole life. He had been shuffled around to various family members. He never had issues with drugs and alcohol. His mom was a nurse and his dad was a real estate agent. When I met Rick in the beginning, he was living with his grandparents. In hindsight, I think all of this could have been prevented if the family dealt with Rick’s issues, instead of shuffling him from home to home. However, I think they tried to hide the flaws in their family.

I am not a murderer nor a criminal. I was associated with an abuser, who was obsessed with controlling and stalking me on every possible occasion.

My life was changed in the blink of an eye.

The courts do not consider facts or circumstances in battered women’s lives. They fail to consider how badly women are abused and threatened with their own lives. If I would have run away the day that Rick killed his parents, I have no doubt that he would have turned the knife on me and killed me.

I’ve been in prison since November 2000. The only thing that I am guilty of, is my association with Rick. I knew he was an abuser. However, I never knew that he was capable of killing his own parents.

When I’m finally set free from these prison walls, I’d like to move to California and live with my mother and sister. I’d like to volunteer at a women’s shelter and do whatever I can to help other women avoid the journey that I went through.

I would tell women that all the pleadings for forgiveness and promises to change do not mean a thing. It’s only a ploy to keep you in their life and under their control. Don’t believe it. You must walk away and stay away. I didn’t end up with the same sad fate as Rick’s parents. However, I am a survivor of domestic violence and no one can take that from me. I can only hope that another woman will benefit from reading my story.

Written by Jenny Baka & Kelle Lynn

Facts from Sanilac County Family Independence Agency related to the case of Rick and Jenny:

Records from the Juvenile Court substantiate Rick’s past violent behavior. On December 2, Petitioner received information from the Eaton County Juvenile Court. This information confirms that Rick made a bomb threat on 4/26/92; that he assaulted his father with a knife on 5/9/94 and was charged with felonious assault; and that on 12/19/96 he was charged with Possession of Firearms, by a Minor.

Rick reportedly was hospitalized in a mental health facility as a teenager because of violent episodes involving the assaults of his parents. He has a lengthy history of juvenile offenses. In 1998 Rick was charged as an adult with two separate incidents of domestic violence which both resulted in deferred prosecutions.

10/22/98: Ann indicated that she is married to the brother of Rick and that she and her husband have very little do with Rick due to his volatile and violent character.

It was indicated that Jenny suffers from clinical depression. Rick was kicked out of his family of origin at a young age and was passed from one family to another. Rick was said to have quit school in the eighth grade. Mrs. Lopez indicated that not in the too distant past, Rick pulled a gun on her husband, but this was not reported to the police. Their previous landlord evicted Rick and Jenny because of the ongoing domestic violence and the repeated visits by law enforcement.

11/12/98: A phone call from Families First investigating a long history of domestic violence after a review of police reports.

11/16/98: Family member of Rick indicated that Rick has a history of violence from the time he was 13-years-old. She stated that he pulled a knife on his father and he was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital for about a month. The hospital was located near Lansing.

11/18/98: Families First worker indicated it appears Rick does not want Jenny to keep mental health appointments and he is consistently an obstacle to Jenny taking her medication. Rick will not come right out and say it, but he manipulates the situation so that Jenny is unable to get to or to keep appointments.

A phone call from a relative of Rick’s. The caller indicated that when Rick was 13, he went after his father with a knife and was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital. There were a number of incidents after this including approximately a year and a half to two years ago when Rick was visiting his mother and he told her that he wanted to show her something downstairs. He pushed her wheelchair to the landing and then apparently was attempting to tip her out of the wheelchair to throw her down the steps. Her mother grabbed onto the wall and the railing and screamed. Rick’s father came running and stopped Rick from hurting her and called the police. Rick was again hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital because of the attempted murder.

Rick’s sister indicated she believes he has never been held accountable by his parents and that his parents cover for him. She indicated this has caused a great deal of trouble between herself and her father since she has repeatedly tried to tell him that Rick needs to be responsible for his behavior if he ever expects Rick to amount to anything. She indicated the last time they discussed this, it turned into an argument between her and her father and she’s not spoken to him since that time. In addition, she indicated she believed her brother lives in a fantasy world and she’s not sure whether he even realizes he’s lying when he tells all of the stories that he tells.

8/7/1999: Rick killed his parents in their home.

11/1/2000: Jenny was sentenced 27-50 years for second-degree murder. Her earliest release date is 8/11/2026. The maximum discharge date is 8/11/2049.  Jenny is incarcerated at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, MI.

Former Michigan Department of Corrections Prison Psychologist, Nels Thompson, agrees Jenny is innocent and should not be in prison.

Statement from Honorable Thomas Eveland (retired): There is absolutely no question in this courts mind that Mr. Dorman was the leader in this incident. To say that Miss Baka was a co-leader I think belies all the evidence that this court is aware of.

How Miss Baka got into this situation, there is also no question in this court’s mind, based upon the psychologicals that were provided to the court, that Miss Baka certainly suffered a great deal of abuse at the hands of Mr. Dorman. That should be without question.

Now, a lot of the reasons Baka is here today is a result of things that happened a long time ago. And I think certainly in Miss Baka’s case has to do a great deal of insensitivity due to her mental abilities when she was raised. Here’s a woman who’s been abused most of her life, certainly was abused by Mr. Dorman in a considerable fashion. And there is no question in this courts mind that this incident would not have happened were it not for Mr. Dorman.

I certainly cannot say the same about Miss Baka. Miss Baka did cooperate. She did give information that provided Mr. Dorman to be apprehended, to be charged, and ultimately convicted. She did give testimony against him. There is absolutely no question in this courts mind that she was somewhat intimidated to some extent by Mr. Dorman and her involvement in this murder certainly would have never taken place were it not for Mr. Dorman.

There’s certainly nothing to indicate to me that she cannot be given rehabilitation. Certainly, there’s no indication that she would commit violent offenses. Certainly, her problem was, has been, and maybe always will be that she associates herself with individuals who treat her and others with abusive and insensitive ways.

2 thoughts on “Jenny Baka – Domestic Violence led to Wrongful Conviction of Second Degree Murder

  1. I correspond with Jenny on a regular basis. I believe the criminal justice system failed her greatly. The court appointed attorney obviously could have cared less about going to trial and defending her innocence. The judge himself should have questioned the prosecuting attorneys choice to charge Jenny. Even if she was culpable for providing the knife that was ultimately used in the murder, she received a great amount of years for it, in this case the punishment does not fit the crime so to say.

    In this day and age of our criminal justice system in the United States you would hope and believe that an innocent person would not be sent to prison for a crime they did not commit. Sadly this is not the case. Jenny’s case needs a revisit by the courts. She helped the police apprehend a double murderer and our court system sent her to prison as a thank you. I believe that serious question remain in this case, specifically of the prosecuting attorneys choice to charge in the first place, and secondly of a court appointed attorney that knew his client was innocent and yet failed to question that in the courtroom.

    I have always believed that had Jenny not accepted the plea deal, she would have won her case in court in front of a jury of her peers. I believe she would be a free woman today. I fully believe that the court system failed her on a monumental basis. What is even more troubling is that she cannot be the only one.

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