POLICE: RIVALRY LED TO DEATH

GREENFIELD — A Greenwood man was in jail Monday, charged with murdering his romantic rival after he intentionally ran him over with a pickup truck last week, police said.

Joseph Baker, 28, appeared in Hancock County Superior Court on Monday after prosecutors filed a single murder charge against the man. Baker appeared in court midday and pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Baker had previously acted violent toward his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, Duane Begley, before he struck Begley with his pickup truck last week, court records state.

Begley, 23, of New Palestine died Sunday afternoon at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis from the head injuries he suffered in the incident, officials said.

The incident happened shortly before 5:30 p.m. Thursday near the intersection of U.S. 52 and County Road 500W in New Palestine.

Police believe Baker used his green pickup truck to intentionally rear-end Begley’s gray minivan, which sparked the altercation between the two men.

After Begley was struck, he was airlifted to the hospital with serious, life-threatening injuries.

Baker’s ex-wife told police Baker and Begley had a history of being violent toward one another. She cited a fight in which Baker attacked Begley and tried to beat him with a crowbar, according to court documents.

Baker told police he was in New Palestine on Thursday to visit his children. He was driving around town looking for his ex-wife, who was not returning his calls, when the accident occurred, court documents state.

Baker told police he spotted Begley’s van driving along U.S. 52 in downtown New Palestine. Baker admitted to rear-ending Begley’s vehicle near the intersection but told police it was only an accident, court documents state.

Witnesses told police they saw Begley and Baker arguing outside their cars. Baker started to drive away, and Begley followed him on foot, court documents state.

Begley had a knife, witnesses said, and he chased after Baker’s car and attempted to slash one of the tires, court documents state.

Baker put his car in reverse, turned around quickly and intentionally drove the truck toward Begley, court document state.

One witness told police she saw Begley “trying to get out of the way of the oncoming truck,” court documents state.

Baker told police he was only trying to scare Begley and did not mean to harm his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, court document state.

“(Baker) claims that he accidentally dropped the clutch and it caused him to run over Mr. Begley,” New Palestine Police Chief Bob Ehle wrote in his report.

An off-duty Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer who witnessed the accident cuffed Baker after the crash as he waited for local law enforcement to arrive.

Baker was booked into the Hancock County Jail on Thursday night on a preliminary charge of criminal recklessness.

Prosecutors asked a judge to keep Baker in jail over the weekend on the preliminary charge while investigators continued to piece together details of the crash.

They filed a murder charge against Baker on Monday morning after learning Begley had died from his injuries.

Ehle said Begley’s death was the first homicide investigation New Palestine has seen in at least 15 years.

Baker remained in the Hancock County Jail on a $250,000 cash bond at press time. The murder charge carries a penalty of up to 65 years in jail and $10,000 in fines.

Baker told a judge Monday he’d hire his own attorney and doesn’t need a public defender.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.