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Matt Baker: The murdering minister

Matt Baker
Image: Matt Baker | The Killer Interview with Piers Morgan

The Killer Interview with Piers Morgan sees the broadcaster and journalist sit down with eight notorious convicted murderers. In a close-quarters, one-hour interview, this is the killer’s chance to give their side of the story.

In one episode, Piers spoke to Matt Baker about the crimes that landed him behind bars. The Killer Interview with Piers Morgan is available on demand to Sky and Virgin customers as well as streaming on Crime + Investigation Play.

He was the respected Baptist pastor who was revealed to be a homicidal philanderer, in a case that scandalised his close-knit Texas community. This is the story of Matt Baker, the ‘murdering minister’.

The apparent suicide

It was around midnight on 8th April 2006 that a 911 operator received a call from Matt Baker, a minister at a Baptist church just outside of Waco, Texas. He said he’d popped out to rent a movie and refuel his car, before coming back to find his wife, Kari, unconscious in their bedroom, having apparently taken an overdose of sleeping pills.

When emergency services arrived, more of the story emerged. How, despite the late hour, Kari had really wanted to watch a movie, how Baker had agreed to go out, and how he’d decided to dress her body in a t-shirt and underwear because he didn’t want the paramedics to find her naked.

Authorities quickly accepted that Kari had taken her own life, both because of Baker’s story and the existence of a suicide note which referenced an earlier tragedy which still haunted the family.

The grieving mother

Back in 1998, the Bakers’ second child, Kassidy, was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Despite an initially positive prognosis, the infant's health sadly deteriorated and she died the following year. Kassidy’s passing was a severe emotional ordeal for Kari, a fact that Baker repeatedly emphasised following the apparent suicide.

As he put it, Kari became dependent on sleeping pills and was particularly despondent around March every year, as the anniversary of Kassidy’s death approached. Baker later recounted that Kari had a ‘meltdown’ days before her own death, trying to open the car door while they were in motion.

The note found by her body explicitly mentioned her overwhelming need to ‘give Kassidy a hug’, a sentiment which helped convince authorities that this was a case of suicide.

The ‘Charlie’s Angels’

Kari’s parents, Jim and Linda Dulin, reluctantly accepted the verdict at first. But Linda’s three sisters were convinced something else had happened. They decided it was the right time to tell Linda about the other side of Baker. They revealed his sleazy, harassing behaviour towards other women, including his own niece, during his marriage to Kari – a fact they’d kept to themselves because they hadn’t wanted to worry or upset Linda.

They also pointed out problems with Baker’s story. Why had he said that Kari was ill on the day she died when others who saw her said she wasn’t? And why would Kari have stripped naked before taking an overdose, as Baker alleged?

Linda began to see her son-in-law in a new, sinister light. She and her sisters mounted their own investigation, dubbing themselves ‘Charlie’s Angels’ with grim, gallows humour. A breakthrough came when they checked Kari’s phone records and saw that her mobile phone had been receiving numerous calls from Baker after she’d died. Hours and hours of calls had been racked up, with as many as 17 on a single day.

It turned out he’d given Kari’s phone to a young woman who attended his church: Vanessa Bulls.

The pursuit of justice

This revelation prompted the family to hire a former district attorney turned investigator named Bill Johnston to delve more deeply into the case. For Bill, one major red flag was the fact that the suicide note had been typed out. ‘We never heard of a typed suicide note,’ he later said. ‘And on the table next to the note were pens. Rather convenient, you know, if someone wanted to sign it.’

It was also discovered that, weeks before Kari’s death, Baker had conducted deeply suspicious internet searches at a youth centre where he worked as a chaplain. These included looking up ‘overdose on sleeping pills’, specifically Ambien. When Kari’s body was exhumed and autopsied, traces of Ambien were found.

The circumstantial evidence – Baker’s apparent affair, the fact that Kari was cold to the touch when paramedics arrived despite supposedly dying less than an hour before, and the toxicology report on Kari’s body – was mounting. But the real turnaround came courtesy of an unlikely source.

The bombshell confession

Following Baker’s arrest, prosecutors were trying to figure out how to make the murder case against him. They were surprised when Vanessa Bulls, who’d previously denied being involved with Baker, suddenly decided to admit that she had indeed been having an affair with him and that he’d openly discussed ways of killing Kari, including tampering with her brakes or hiring a hitman.

Following Kari’s death, he’d allegedly relished recounting every step of the murder to Vanessa – how he’d dosed her with Ambien, handcuffed her to their bed under the pretext of a kinky game and then smothered her with a pillow. He’d then typed the suicide note and embarked on the video rental errand to establish his alibi.

During the trial, Bulls recounted grisly details to the court – including how Baker had allegedly told his dying wife, ‘Give Kassidy a kiss for me’ and had later claimed that ‘God had forgiven him’. It took the jury less than eight hours of deliberations to find him guilty.

On the day of his sentencing, the true extent of Baker’s malevolence was underscored by a succession of women who testified of the unwanted sexual advances they had to endure. In the end, despite still protesting his innocence, the ‘murdering minister’ was sentenced to 65 years.