State v. Baker, 48355

Citation246 Iowa 215,66 N.W.2d 303
Decision Date21 September 1954
Docket NumberNo. 48355,48355
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Wilbur C. BAKER, Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa

Charles W. Bowers and Charles J. Cardamon, Des Moines, for appellant.

Leo A. Hoegh, Atty. Gen., Raphael R. R. Dvorak, Asst. Atty. Gen., Peter B. Narey, County Atty. of Dickinson County, Spirit Lake, James R. Hamilton, County Attorney of Buena Vista County, Storm Lake, for appellee.

BLISS, Justice.

It is undisputed that at about five o'clock in the morning of July 30, 1952, Anna Belle Baker, from whom defendant was divorced, while she was in bed with her sister, Loretta Elgenson, in a downstairs bedroom in the home of her father, W. G. Boardman, near the town of Milford, Dickinson County, Iowa, was struck by the discharge from a shotgun in the hands of the defendant. There was testimony that the wound was accidentally inflicted. Mr. Boardman, in his bedroom on the second floor, heard a car enter and stop in his driveway, and saw defendant get out of the car and heard him enter the house without knocking on the door. He then heard some conversation downstairs and saw defendant leave the house and go to the car, and then return to the house, and, as Mr. Boardman was dressing to go downstairs, he heard what he though was the discharge of a shotgun. He then saw defendant immediately leave the house and enter the car and drive away. On going to the bedroom downstairs, Mr. Boardman found his daughters, Anna Belle and Loretta, there, and was told by them that defendant had shot Anna Belle. Upon removing the bed covers over Anna Belle he saw the gunshot wound along the outside of her right leg on the upper third thereof. Doctors who were called testified that there was a deep flesh would about seven inches long and four inches wide, and other shot perforations in the lower abdomen, and in the face and hands of Anna Belle.

The following matters appear without dispute: the defendant drove at once from the Boardman home to the Maid-Rite Restaurant in Milford, and told the woman in charge that he had just shot and killed his wife, and asked her to call the sheriff. The local policeman was called, and defendant told him he had shot and killed his wife, Anna Belle Boardman, at her father's home, and asked to be taken to jail. Defendant gave him his two 20-gauge shotgun shells one of which had been exploded, and told him to 'get the gun' in the back seat of defendant's car, which was done. The policeman took defendant to Spirit Lake and delivered him, with the gun and shells to the sheriff of Dickinson County. Defendant said to the sheriff: 'I just shot Anna Belle.' The sheriff said to him: 'Did you kill her?' and defendant answered: 'Yes'. He also told a deputy sheriff, the chief of police of Spirit Lake and the County Attorney of Dickinson County, that he had shot 'his wife'. He so referred to anna Belle, though their marriage on February 20, 1950 had been dissolved by decree of divorce on April 19, 1952.

At 6:30 o'clock in the morning of July 30, 1952, in the police station of Spirit Lake, Iowa, in the presence of the chief of police, the defendant while in custody was interrogated by the County Attorney, and the questions and answers were taken in shorthand by an official court reporter of that judicial district. Defendant was advised by the County Attorney that he need make no answers, if he so desired, that he could have counsel if he wished, and that whatever he said might be used against him in court. Defendant stated that he knew of these legal rights, that he wished no legal counsel, and that he was willing to answer questions. He admitted as a witness at his trial that no promises or offers of immunity had been made to him to induce him to give the statement. When the examination was finished he signed his name to the last sheet of the shorthand notes and initialed the other sheets. He stated, in substance in his answers that: he and Anna Belle had been divorced in the spring of 1952; and shortly after she had gone to Chicago, he had visited her there and she told him she would come back if he would buy her a house and a car; and that he bought the house and bought another car and gave her his Chrysler car; she and her sister from Illinois came back to Spirit Lake, and after about a week the sisters started going out, and he begged Anna Belle to stop; he and Anna Belle went out one night to some of the resort places, and 'the guy she had been going with was there', and beckoned her away from him and when they came back he 'went out and hit him on the chin', and Anna Belle became angry and told defendant she hated him; she took her clothes from defendant's cottage where she and her sister, Loretta, and the latter's husband had been staying, and she and her sister went to her father's home, and thereafter she and the man he had hit continued to go together; on the night of July 29, 1952, he inadvertently contacted Anna Belle and her brother and his wife and the sister from Illinois, at the Peacock Inn, and when he tried to talk with her she told him to get away from her, and told him she had been to bed with this fellow the night before and was going with him again that night; he then left the place and went home but couldn't sleep and he called a friend from Minneapolis who was visiting in Spirit Lake to come to defendant's cottage and talk to him, which was done, and the friend told him to take some sleeping tablets and go to bed; he could not sleep and he decided to drive to the Boardman home and talk to Anna Belle. He was asked: 'Did you take your gun with you? A. I had it in the car.

'Q. Did you take it from the house to the car? A. No, it was already in the car. It was a shotgun. It has been in the car. I went in and tried to talk to her and she was in bed with her sister and she told me to get out. I went and got the gun and came back and shot her.

'Q. Was she in bed when you shot her? A. Yes.

'Q. Then you went back--. A. I drove to Milford and I told the girl in the Maid-Rite I had shot my wife--I referred to her as my wife. She called the sheriff or called you (County Atty.) and called somebody that he should call them and I rode over here with the policeman from Milford. * * *

'Q. Wilbur, where were you standing when you shot her? A. At the foot of the bed. * * *

'Q. Wilbur, when you put that gun in the car yesterday afternoon whom were you going after; were you going after Anna Belle or this fellow in Spencer? (The man he hit on the chin.) A. I thought I was going after the fellow at Spencer until I talked to him.

'Q. You say you and Anna Belle were going to be married the 6th of August? A. That is what she promised me when she came back.

'Q. That was George's gun, wasn't it? (George was his brother.) A. Yes.

'Q. You borrowed it yesterday afternoon? A. Yes.'

The court reporter who took the examination of defendant and transcribed his shorthand notes gave the material parts of it as a witness for the State. During the course of the examination some inquiry was made whether Anna Belle had died. It was ascertained by telephone communication to the hospital that she was living, but it was not known how seriously she was injured. At the conclusion of the examination, defendant was taken to the jail. About seven o'clock of the morning of July 30, 1952, the chief of police of Spirit Lake went to the jail and found defendant hanging by his neck in the cell. He was hanging by his belt and was limp and unconscious and had difficulty in breathing. He revived after being cut down.

Concerning the hanging, defendant testifying for himself, said he thought Anna Belle was dead--the sheriff had told him so--and he had no desire to live, so he attempted to end his life, by fastening his belt to a bar in the highest part of the cell, and tied it to the buckle around his neck and jumped off the bunk in his cell. There was testimony introduced by the State that there was no mention during the questioning of defendant that Anna Belle was dead, and that the sheriff was at no time present. In large part, defendant's testimony in his own behalf was in accord with his answers given to the county attorney, set out above. There were some denials and inconsistencies. The chief one being with respect to the shooting. Of that he testified on direct examination: 'When I arrived at the Boardman home, I stopped the car in the driveway and got out of the car, and went into the house and into the bedroom where I knew Anna Belle always slept when she was at her father's place. Anna Belle and her sister were in bed, and I sat on the edge of the bed and shook Anna Belle until she woke up. I started to talk to her and told her that I was unable to sleep; life to me had come to the point where it wasn't worth living if I had to carry on in the condition I was then. She told me to get out, that she didn't want to talk to me at that time. So I went out and went to the car. I saw this shotgun laying in the back of the car, and the first thought that entered by mind was to kill myself. I thought the best place to do it would be in front of Anna Belle. So I took the gun out to examine it to see if it was loaded, and it was. I went back into the house. Anna Belle was still awake, and I told her: 'Anna Belle, I am going to kill myself'. At that she rose up in bed and grabbed the barrel of the gun and pulled it down, and at that moment the gun was discharged. I thought I had killed her. I saw the hole in the bedspread and looked at her, so I went back and got in the car and drove to Milford to the Maid-Rite Restaurant. I stopped and asked the lady in there if she would call the police. I thought I had killed my wife. She asked me if I was sure, and I said, 'I think I must have killed her''. He testified that when the policeman came, and when he separately contacted the sheriff, the county attorney, the court reporter, and the chief of police, in the...

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