Parents of slain Texas mom win custody of kids

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Associated Press

Posted on July 16, 2011 at 6:27 PM

KERRVILLE, Texas—The parents of a slain Central Texas woman have won custody of her children from the parents of her ex-minister husband now in prison for her killing.

The Kerr County jury voted after eight hours of deliberation on Friday to award custody of the 10- and 15-year-old daughters of Matt and Kari Baker to Jim and Linda Dulin of the Waco suburb of Woodway.

The Dulins had sued for custody of their granddaughters, who had been wards of Oscar and Barbara Baker of Kerrville since their father was indicted and jailed in 2009.

The verdict was greeted with tears from all sides, including from the two girls. The eldest girl wept as she sat between friends, while the youngest wept as Barbara Baker held her.

Meanwhile, the Dulins embraced each other and cried. Matt Baker, who is serving a 65-year prison sentence for murder in the 2006 drugging and suffocation of his wife, shook his head.

Prosecutors at the former Baptist minister’s murder trial argued that he had killed his wife so that he could take up with his mistress and tried to make Kari Baker’s death appear to be a suicide by overdose. Only pressure from the Dulins compelled police to re-open the case and determine that she had been murdered.

A court-appointed adviser who conducted home studies on both the Baker and Dulin homes had recommended that the Dulins be awarded custody for several reasons, including the "unhealthy emotional environment" she says exists in the Baker home. The adviser, Stephanie Trulson, said Matt Baker and his parents continue to blame the Dulins for Matt Baker’s incarceration.

Testimony during the nine-day trial focused on allegations by two women that Oscar Baker had molested them decades ago when they were foster children of the Bakers. Baker denied the allegations. Another focus was the Bakers’ insistence of the innocence of their son and the Dulins’ campaign for his prosecution and conviction. The Dulins argued that the Bakers had brainwashed the children into believing that their maternal grandparents were evil and were persecuting their father.

Members of the extended Dulin family expressed sadness for the girls’ anxieties and grief. "My heart hurts for the girls right now," Lindsey Pick, Linda Dulin’s niece, told the Kerrville Daily Times.

A friend of the Bakers, Ron Canter, also was sad. "It’s been a very trying experience for both parties. No one wins," he told the San Antonio Express-News.

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