LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The family of a man pardoned by Gov. Matt Bevin for a homicide and other crimes in a fatal 2014 Knox County home invasion raised $21,500 at a political fundraiser last year to retire debt from Bevin’s 2015 gubernatorial campaign.
The brother and sister-in-law of offender Patrick Brian Baker also gave $4,000 to Bevin’s campaign on the day of the fundraiser, according to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance database.
A photo of Bevin attending the July 26, 2018, fundraiser at the home of Eric and Kathryn Baker in Corbin was published six days later in a local paper, the News Journal.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele, who prosecuted Patrick Baker and other defendants for the 2014 death of Donald Mills, told The Courier Journal on Wednesday that it would be an “understatement to say I am aggrieved” by Bevin’s pardon.
Steele identified Patrick Baker as the brother of Eric Baker, who hosted the Bevin fundraiser at his Corbin home.
The Dec. 6 order was one of 428 pardons and commutations Bevin issued since his narrow loss in November to Democrat Andy Beshear, who was sworn into office Tuesday.
The beneficiaries include one offender convicted of raping a child, another who hired a hit man to kill his business partner and a third who killed his parents.
Steele noted Baker served two years of a 19-year sentence on his conviction for reckless homicide, robbery, impersonating a peace officer and tampering with evidence.
Steele, who, like Bevin, is a Republican, also cited the fact that two of Baker’s co-defendants are still in prison.
“What makes Mr. Baker any different than the other two?” he asked.
Answering that question, he said he believes Baker was pardoned while the others remain locked up because Baker’s family has given generously to Bevin. State records show that Victoria Baker, who lives at the same Corbin address where the fundraiser was held, donated $1,000 in 2015 and that Kathryn Baker gave another $500 to Bevin’s reelection in March.
In a pardon order Dec. 6, Bevin said Baker had made “a series of unwise decisions in his adult life” and that his drug addiction “resulted in his association with people that in turn led to his arrest, prosecution and conviction for murder.”
Bevin wrote that the evidence supporting Baker’s conviction is “sketchy at best. I am not convinced that justice has been served on the death of Donald Mills, nor am I convinced that the evidence has proven the involvement of Patrick Baker as a murderer.”
(Although the pardon says Baker was convicted of murder, court records show that was amended to reckless homicide.)
Bevin commuted his sentence to time served and gave him a pardon.
State prison records showed that Baker, 41, was still at Northpoint Training Center on Wednesday.
If not for Bevin’s clemency order, Baker would not have been eligible for parole until July 2027. The minimum date for expiration of his sentence would have been January 2034.
Eric Baker could not be reached for comment. A woman who identified herself as Kathryn Baker immediately hung up on a Courier Journal reporter Wednesday night after he mentioned the pardon of Patrick Baker and did not answer follow-up phone calls.
There was no answer at Eric and Kathryn Baker’s listed address Thursday morning when a reporter rang the buzzer at the gate.