Baer to get new sentencing hearing for 2004 murder

THB File PhotoFredrick Baer talks to The Herald Bulletin during an interview at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City on April 23, 2013.

ANDERSON — John “Chip” Clark did not immediately move from his seat when he was called to the witness stand at Fredrick Baer’s resentencing hearing on Thursday.

A tearful woman sitting in front of him reached back to touch his knee – “you have to do this,” she whispered.

Clark’s face was flushed deep red and he kept his hands clasped in front of his face for several seconds before standing up to walk past Baer.

Once on the witness stand, Clark answered questions from Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings, but he made very few statements in the court with the exception of one. He wanted Baer to be punished for the rest of his life for murdering his 26-year-old wife Cory Clark and 4-year-old daughter Jenna on Feb. 25, 2004.

“I want a life sentence,” he told Madison Circuit Court Division 6 Judge Mark Dudley. “That’s exactly what I want.”

Dudley granted his request resentencing Baer, 47, to two counts of life without parole for the slayings.

Baer initially was sentenced to death for the murders on June 9, 2005, but that sentence was overturned by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The U.S. Court of Appeals cited ineffective legal counsel for failing to object to jury instructions that kept the jury from considering mitigating circumstances and failure to object to instances of prosecutorial misconduct by Cummings in its decision to overturn Baer's death penalty sentence.

During the selection of a jury, brought in from Huntington County, the Court of Appeals said Cummings incorrectly suggested that the standard for guilty but mentally ill and legal insanity were the same.

The court said Cummings also made statements suggesting the life sentence without parole could be changed by the Indiana General Assembly.

On Thursday, Dudley heard emotional testimony by John Clark; Cory Clark's mother, Christina Flemming; and her only surviving daughter, Morgan Clark.

Morgan Clark was 7 years old when her mother and little sister were killed by Baer in 2004 at their home near Lapel. She was at school when the murders happened, but she said she is still haunted by their deaths and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because of it.

Baer admitted to the crimes at the time of his 2005 trial and agreed Thursday to a plea agreement of life imprisonment without parole for both murders.

Before he was sentenced, Dudley allowed Baer to make a statement in court.

“To the family and friends and community of Cory and Jenna Clark, Mr. John Clark and Ms. Flemming, there’s no excuse to justify what I did to your loved ones,” Baer said. “I know that to say I am sorry is meaningless because it doesn’t do anything to lessen your loss. But I am deeply sorry for the terrible grief and pain that I have caused you.

“I live with the regret of having stolen two innocent lives every day. I can only give you my sincere apology. I know you are free to reject my apology. I will be punished for the rest of my life for what I have done, but I will with the sorrow and regret of my actions forever in my heart and soul.”

Dudley said he only accepted the plea agreement because it was what the victim's family wanted.

Following the resentencing, Flemming said she wanted people to remember what Baer did to her family.

“I think we need to know and remember what he did to a 4-year-old child, and that’s damage we have to live with and we want to remember the true victims,” she said.

Follow Traci L. Miller @_TraciMiller on Twitter, email her at traci.miller@heraldbulletin.com, or call her at 765-640-4805.

Fredrick Baer: 'I deserve to die'