Deerfield man found guilty, mentally ill in Vernon Hills murder
Daniel Baker, 21, of Deerfield, arrested in connection with the murder of Marina Aksman, 50, of Vernon Hills. | Special to Sun-Times Media
A Deerfield man was found guilty of first-degree murder Monday in the 2010 baseball bat beating of a Vernon Hills woman.
Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes did not find Daniel Baker, 24, was legally insane when Marina Aksman was bludgeoned to death. Instead, Shanes found Baker guilty but mentally ill when he delivered his verdict.
“This court finds the defendant was simply acting in a blind rage, not insanity,” Shanes said. “This court finds the defendant clearly has his share of mental challenges ... but that alone does not find him insane.”
Defense attorneys Ed Genson and Blaire Dalton unsuccessfully sought a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity in the bench trial. Baker waived his right to a jury when the trial started Oct. 16.
“Insanity means (a defendant) is so mentally ill, he could not understand wrong,” Assistant State’s Attorney Ari Fisz said. “Guilty, but mentally ill, means he had a substantial (mental) disorder that impaired his judgment that day (of the murder) but didn’t rise to the level of insanity.”
Guilty but mentally ill means Baker faces 20 years to life in prison, Shanes said. Illinois Department of Corrections can work to treat Baker for his mental issues, the judge noted.
Baker was diagnosed with plethora of mental issues, according to two psychiatrists who testified during the trial. Although Dr. Stafford Henry, who testified for the state, and Dr. Alexander Obolsky, who testified for the defense, disagreed on the severity of Baker’s disorders, both said he had more than one. Diagnoses included borderline personality disorder (or traits of the disorder), obsessive-complusive disorder and Tourette Syndrome.
Baker was dating Marina’s developmentally disabled daughter, Kristina Aksman, for several months. Baker had reportedly brought Kristina home after curfew more than once. They also took a trip together that ended with Kristina’s hospitalization.
On March 31, 2010, Marina left Baker a voice message in which she called him “bipolar” and forbade him from having further contact with her daughter.
“This message triggered a homicidal rage in Mr. Baker,” Shanes said.
Not long after listening to that message, in the early hours of April 1, 2010, Baker grabbed an aluminum baseball bat “for protection” and drove to Aksman’s home. He crashed his car into the front step of their house, smashed a window in the rear of the home and hit Marina with the baseball bat at least 10 times, according to court testimony.
“It is apparent that she suffered from a repeated and prolonged beating. What the defendant did was vicious and barbaric,” Shanes said.
Baker fled the state with Kristina after the murder, staying near the Canadian border. He was arrested in Montana for speeding and fleeing from police.
Neither the Aksman family nor Baker’s family spoke after the verdict.