Big Bend Park murder suspect flees from RCJ

By JENNIFER GALVAN
Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 14, 2003 -- Local law enforcement officials continue the search for an escapee believed to be heading back to San Antonio after escaping from the Reeves County Jail yesterday afternoon.
Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez said that John Michael Baker, 23, had escaped from a vent located in a storage room where recreation equipment is kept.
Baker was being housed at the jail as of May 26, for the U.S. Marshal.
"He escaped through a vent located in the storage room," Gomez said. "His (Baker's) rec time was from 1:35 p.m. to 2:35 p.m."
Baker is described as a white male, 6 feet 1 inch, 195 pounds, blond hair with blue eyes and two tattoos, one on his left arm and a second one on his right shoulder.
He is also considered armed and dangerous and was last seen wearing a gray T-shirt and blue jeans.
Baker, is wanted on allegations of murder. He was discovered to be missing at about 4 p.m. during head count, Gomez said.
"We do not know much about the alleged murder," Gomez said.
He, however, added that the alleged murder is believed to have occurred in the Big Bend National Park.
According to an Associated Press story, Baker is facing murder charges after telling Park rangers that he had killed Shannon Stewart Roberts, 43, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Baker then told the rangers that he had buried Robert's body in the park where it was found on March 31, 2000.
Baker is from Leon Valley, located just outside San Antonio on State Highway 16. Gomez added that Baker's attorney out of San Antonio has notified family and friends and has asked them that if they hear from him to notify the police.
"His mother actually heard it on the news and called us," Gomez said.
He added that Pecos Fire Department volunteer Brian Fuentes had seen Baker crossing the street in civilian clothing with what appeared to be legal papers in hand. Baker was working outside the city's fire station, which is located just south of Reeves County Jail.
"He (Baker) told Brian that his lawyer had bonded him out," Gomez said. "Baker acted very calm."
Baker was also spotted hanging around the Pecos Christian Home, which is located on the corner of 12th and Elm streets. At first, officials believed that he had taken the Christian Home van because it was not there.
"He had been seen around the Christian Home," Gomez said. "We though he might have taken the van because we could not locate it. However, we found the man of the Christian Home and the van. They are both in Balmorhea and are safe."
As law enforcement officials continue to look for Baker, Gomez said that he believes Baker may still be in the area.
"I think he is still in the area," Gomez said. "We have set up road blocks on Highway 17 and 285."
Currently the Reeves County Sheriff's Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Trans Pecos Task Force, U.S. Boarder Patrol, U.S. Marshals and the Texas Rangers are all involved in the search for Baker.
"We have everything," Gomez said when asked if they had helicopters and dogs helping them in the search.
Baker's escape is the first from Reeves County Jail since March 8, 2002, when Steven Perez walked away from the facility while on work detail on the jail grounds. He fled to Juarez, Mex., but was caught six months later in an Odessa residence.
Though this is not the first time the Reeves County Sheriff's Office has had an inmate escape, Gomez said that there is a difference between the first incident and this one.
"The first one (Perez) was a trustee that walked off," Gomez said. "This time the inmate escaped from the prison."
While the investigation continues, Gomez said that once they find out what happened there would be some changes done with in the jail.