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Judge denies new venue

Ferry line cutters enrage fellow motorists By BEN WATANABE South Whidbey Record With summer nearly over, the ferry lines to reach Whidbey Island are dwindling. Line cutting remains a salty issue for many regular island commuters, and for good reason. In 2012, 523 line cutters were reported on the Mukilteo side of the ferry crossing, with the bulk in the peak summer months.

“Now you’re not allowed to approach them, that’s assault.” Ivan Solkey, Clinton commuter

Jessie Stensland / The Record

Accused Greenbank murderer Robert “Al” Baker speaks with his attorney, Tom Pacher, during a change of venue proceeding Friday in Island County Superior Court. A judge denied his request to be tried in another county due to press coverage.

Pizza man will be tried in Island County By JESSIE STENSLAND South Whidbey Record Robert “Al” Baker will go on trial for murder in Island County Superior Court despite publicity surrounding a case involving a pizza parlor and an Antarctic romance gone horribly wrong. Baker, a 62-year-old Greenbank resident, appeared in court Friday morning with his attorney, Tom Pacher of Coupeville. He’s accused of murdering his wife, 53-year-old Kathie Baker, and dumping her tarp-wrapped body in a ravine behind their home last summer. Pacher filed a motion for change of venue based on pre-trial publicity. He argued that the

trial should be moved to Snohomish County because news stories may make it difficult to find impartial jurors. Pacher presented 12 stories that have appeared in the Whidbey News-Times in the 18 months since the alleged murder. He pointed out that many of the stories also appeared in the South Whidbey Record. “There’s more than just one part of the county that’s been saturated with publicity,” he said. Senior Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme said the motion is premature and should be considered only if the attorneys have trouble empaneling a jury. Ohme pointed out that knowledge about a

case from news coverage doesn’t disqualify a potential juror from serving. Under case law, jurors are only disqualified if “their opinions are so fixed so that they cannot be impartial.” Judge Alan Hancock agreed with the prosecution and denied the motion. “The articles in question are factual, good articles that are not inflammatory in any way,” he said. “It was good, factual reporting about a case involving matters of public record,” he added. Hancock said there’s no evidence that they will have any trouble finding jurors to serve. He SEE BAKER, A14

A total of 231 line cutters were reported to the HERO program, a division of the Washington Department of Transportation which also cites high-occupancy vehicle lane infractions, in June, July and August of 2012. With many Whidbey Island residents commuting off the island for work, seeing someone cruise past them after a long wait in the ferry line can be infuriating. One Clinton resident was maddened after a ferry line cutter went unpunished, even after he reported the infraction to a Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division employee at the ticket booth. “Now you’re not allowed SEE FERRY, A14

South Whidbey Record, September 21, 2013