A Greenwood man was sentenced to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty in the death of his ex-wife’s boyfriend.
As part of a plea agreement, Joseph Baker, 28, pleaded guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter, after being charged with murder last year. In addition to prison time, he will also spend 16 years on probation, with the first two years in a low-level security community corrections facility.
The case stemmed from an incident in April in New Palestine, when, in the heat of an argument, police said Baker struck 23-year-old Duane Begley with his car, he said. Begley died from his injuries a few days later.
Before his sentencing, Baker told Hancock County Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow it wasn’t a secret that he and Begley didn’t get along but that he terribly regretted what happened.
Hancock County prosecutors and the victim’s family pressed for 18 years behind bars — the maximum time in prison allowed by a plea agreement Baker signed late last year in which he agreed to plead guilty to the Level 2 felony.
The men were seen shouting at each other near the intersection in New Palestine on April 14 in the minutes before Begley was struck. Baker had intentionally rear-ended Begley’s minivan with his pickup truck, witnesses told police.
Baker started to drive away but spotted Begley following him on foot, a knife in his hand as if intending to slash one of Baker’s tires, investigators said. Baker put his car in reverse, turned around quickly and struck the man with his car, according to court documents.
At some point during the altercation, Baker called 911 to report the dispute. Prosecutors determined Baker’s actions were done in the heat of the moment and without the pre-planning a murder charge requires. They offered Baker a plea agreement that called for him to admit to a lesser voluntary manslaughter charge, and Baker accepted about a month before his case was set to go to trial.
At his sentencing in February, the families of Baker and Begley packed into the courtroom, filling opposite sides of the little gallery.
Baker also stood to address the court, offering his condolences to the family. He said he grieves for Begley’s family, especially for the victim’s newborn child born a few months after the victim’s death, but he also worries about his own three children growing up without a father.