GREENFIELD — Joseph Baker called 911 to report a man with whom he’d had a dispute was trying to slash his tires moments before Baker took matters into his own hands and ran over the man with his car, killing him, prosecutors said.
Baker, 28, of Greenwood, accepted a plea deal Tuesday in which he agreed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of 23-year-old Duane Begley of New Palestine; Baker, 564 Shady Brook Heights, was scheduled to go to trial on a murder charge next month.
Prosecutors didn’t have the 911 tape when Baker was arrested and charged with murder; after hearing the recording, they concluded the act was done in the heat of the moment; Indiana law requires some evidence of pre-planning to convict a person of murder, Prosecutor Brent Eaton said.
The agreement is pending with the court; Hancock County Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow will determine how much of the recommended 30-year sentence Baker will spend in prison and how much will be served on probation. Prosecutors have agreed to ask for no more than 18 years and no less than 10 years in prison for Baker, Eaton added.
Baker was charged with murder in April after police said he intentionally ran over Begley, his ex-wife’s new boyfriend. Begley died April 17, days after he suffered severe head injuries in the incident, police said.
Police said Baker used his pickup truck April 14 to intentionally rear-end Begley’s gray minivan near the intersection of U.S. 52 and County Road 500W in New Palestine, which sparked an altercation between the two men.
Witnesses told police they saw Begley and Baker arguing outside their cars moments before Baker struck the victim. 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 during the dispute, court documents state.
Baker put his car in reverse, turned around quickly and intentionally drove the truck toward Begley, court document state.
Investigators say at some point during the altercation, Baker picked up his cellphone to call police, Eaton said.
When police arrived, Baker admitted to rear-ending Begley’s vehicle near the intersection but told police it was only an accident, court documents state. He was only trying to scare Begley when he drove toward him in the parking lot and did not mean to harm his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, court document state.
But 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 returns for sentencing Feb. 7.