Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Accused kidnapper given partially suspended sentence

Hagadone News Network | November 22, 2023 1:00 AM

The Whitefish man accused of holding a woman against her will and beating her with a belt in 2021 received a partially suspended sentence in Flathead County District Court on Thursday.

Judge Amy Eddy gave Dylan Thomas Baker, 49, a seven-year sentence with the state Department of Corrections with two years suspended for felony criminal endangerment and a year in the Flathead County Detention Center with all but one day suspended for misdemeanor partner or family member assault. 

Baker also received credit for 386 days of time served. 

Deputy County Attorney Stacy Boman had asked that Baker receive a 10-year sentence to the Department of Corrections with five years suspended for the felony charge, while defense attorney Benjamin Darrow sought a six-year deferred sentence. 

“The state’s recommendation seeks to both hold Mr. Baker to account for the conduct, the fear and disruption in [his victim’s] life … [and] intended to provide a path toward rehabilitation and restoration,” Boman said.

Eddy noted that her sentence fell between the two requests and said it took into account state sentencing policies, Baker’s assertion of innocence and his prior criminal history, which included nine misdemeanors but no felony convictions.

Baker, initially charged with felony kidnapping, strangulation of a partner or family member and assault with a weapon, struck a deal with prosecutors just before his jury trial was set to start in September. In exchange for the amended charges of criminal endangerment and misdemeanor partner or family member assault, Baker entered an Alford plea. Prosecutors also dropped a drug possession case against Baker. 

In an Alford plea, a defendant maintains their innocence, but acknowledges a jury likely will find them guilty. 

Baker, wearing the orange uniform of a county inmate, eventually offered an apology to the court after initially passing on his opportunity to speak prior to his Nov. 17 sentencing. 

“I know that the charges that were brought against me are scary,” Baker said, apologizing to the community as well as his family and the victim. “I read what was in the paper about me and it put fear in me.”

Whitefish Police officers responded to Monegan Road on Dec. 13, 2021 after a neighbor found a bloodied and bruised woman tied up and left in the snow, according to court documents. Lacking pants and shoes, she had duct tape attached to her head and wrists, court documents said. 

“I had considered Whitefish my home, at one point, and I just don’t know if I can call it home and feel safe knowing that someone who tried to harm me like that will be out in just a couple of years,” said Marissa Carroll, Baker’s victim and ex-girlfriend, during the sentencing. 

Carroll told arriving authorities in 2021 that she was moving out of Baker’s home when he “went nuts,” according to court documents. Hitting her and choking her to the point of unconsciousness, Baker allegedly took Carroll to the basement, where he restrained her with duct tape. 

He later beat Carroll with a studded belt and threatened to kill her, court documents said. 

Carroll escaped when Baker left the home, according to court documents. A subsequent search of his home turned up her pants and shoes as well as part of a studded leather belt, court documents alleged. Investigators also allegedly found duct tape matching the tape on Carroll.

During his apology, Baker said he took responsibility for his conduct during his relationship with Carroll, though “not to the degree that she is accusing me of.”

“I will say that our relationship became toxic and in some ways I absolutely regret my role in that,” he said.

In arguing for a deferred sentence, Darrow pointed to Baker’s lack of felony convictions and his previous ability to serve as a productive member of the community. 

“He has led a law abiding life for a substantial period of time before the commission of this offense,” Darrow said. “His conduct was a result of circumstances that are unlikely to occur again. They are not going to occur.”

But Carroll deemed Baker a threat to the community during her turn on the witness stand. 

“I think he’s dangerous because he lacks self control,” she said, arguing that it likely took years for him to become the person he was at the time of the alleged kidnapping. 

Five years fell short of what Baker needed to be rehabilitated, Carroll said. 

“How many years does it take for a doctor to become a doctor, a judge to become a judge?” Carroll asked. “It takes a lot of years to learn a behavior and program that. I feel that five years is not quite long enough.”