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February 4, 2005


Serial Rapist Might Have Been Caught Sooner if Atlanta PD Investigated More Thoroughly

Rapist receives 10 life sentences
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/29/05

Christopher Baker, a convicted serial rapist who was sentenced to 10 back-to-back life terms, might have been caught sooner if police had investigated other attacks more aggressively, a former Atlanta police official said.
Baker, 37, tried to talk his way out of a hefty sentence by professing his innocence and blaming the six victims, whom he described as vindictive prostitutes he had ripped off but not raped.
Christopher Baker was sentenced to 10 back-to-back life sentences plus 119 years after being convicted on 18 charges. The sentencing judge, however, imposed the maximum penalty allowed, tacking 119 years onto the life sentences.
"That's every day I could find," Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alford Dempsey Jr. said Friday when passing the sentence. A jury convicted Baker of 18 counts, including rape, kidnapping, aggravated sodomy and robbery by force, for incidents from May 1998 through October 2002.
Prosecutor Gayle Abramson said DNA evidence also links Baker, a four-time convicted felon, to a dozen rapes in Fulton and DeKalb counties, including the six in Atlanta's west side.
"There is no way he'll ever see the light of day again, and that's what we wanted," Abramson said.
All six of the victims testified last fall, some of them through tears, about how Baker raped them. He left some of them with scrapes, a jaw contusion or black eyes. He also kneed a pregnant woman in the abdomen, Abramson said.
Lou Arcangeli, a retired Atlanta police commander, came to Baker's sentencing even though he didn't work on the case. He said he believes it's possible Baker could have been stopped sooner if police detectives had aggressively investigated all reports of rape. "I'm sure they had a chance to catch him earlier," he said. "It's justice delayed."
Lisa James, a former Atlanta police detective assigned to the sex crimes unit, said she and other investigators suspected Baker in some of the "really brutal" cases, but since the cases were not investigated thoroughly, they could not be connected to him.
James left the department after unwittingly blowing the whistle in 2001 on a secret file, dubbed the "name file," where some investigators stored rape reports involving runaways, the homeless, prostitutes and others who were hard to find or easy to discredit. These rapes weren't thoroughly investigated or included in the city's crime statistics.
Arcangeli, once a deputy chief under former police chief Beverly Harvard, was demoted in 1998 after blowing the whistle on crime underreporting he said was designed to polish the image of the department and city in time for the 1996 Olympics.
Arcangeli again exposed underreporting in 2001, this time involving sex crimes. He blamed several people, from detectives to a deputy chief, for keeping the name file in 1999 and 2000 and possibly destroying evidence by tossing aside rape kits.
In Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington's first year in office, he launched an internal probe into the name file and promoted Arcangeli to zone commander in 2002.
The internal investigation, completed last year, put the blame on nine people, including three supervisors.
For nearly a year, Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard's Public Integrity Unit has been investigating whether police misconduct rises to the level of criminal wrongdoing. "We're nearing a conclusion," Howard said. Howard said he couldn't discuss whether Baker was a suspect in rapes previously hidden in the name file.
"I don't want to say anything that would keep me from prosecuting someone who might have done something illegal," Howard said. "So that is why I am being careful in saying what is in the name file."
Arcangeli credited Howard, the judge, and jury with holding Baker accountable.
"This is awesome," Arcangeli said. "This shows the system can work even when one part of it, the police department under Chief Harvard fails."
The hearing, which lasted nearly three hours, brought sobs from Baker's relatives and one of his victims, who ran from the courtroom in tears as her credibility came under attack.
A couple of the victims said they had accepted a ride from Baker, a stranger who seemed friendly and eager to help them on their way home from MARTA or to a nearby store. One victim said she thought she was headed on a first date with a nice guy. But others were forced into Baker's sport utility vehicle after he spotted them and brandished a gun.
Staff writer Tasgola Karla Bruner contributed to this report.

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