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Convicted killer asks for parole

He’s been in prison 25+ years for killing a man in 1983

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Kenneth Baker</I>

Kenneth Baker

UTAH STATE PRISON — Aging behind bars, convicted killer Kenneth Lee Baker wants to spend his remaining years with his family.

"I'm an old man now," the 69-year-old inmate said during his parole hearing Tuesday. "I know that I'm not going to go out there and commit some kind of stupid crime to get me put in prison. I don't want to die in prison."

Backed by family and friends, Baker pleaded for his release after spending nearly 26 years in prison for the 1983 slaying of an elderly man.

Baker has been in prison so long, parole board member Jesse Gallegos said his file predates computers. Baker started committing crimes when he was 7, Gallegos said. He bounced in and out of a reform school until he was released at 17. A year later, he was sent to prison for burglary. In 1965, he went to prison in California for grand theft. In 1971, he went back to the Utah State Prison for burglary, then again in 1977 for robbing a grocery store. In 1980, he came back for drug possession and was paroled in 1982.

In 1983, he was involved in the beating death a 79-year-old man in a robbery. He's been in prison ever since.

Prison officials have asked that Baker be released this year, noting that he has been a very good inmate. While incarcerated, he once saved the life of a guard here. But Gallegos noted that every time Baker's been incarcerated, he's been a model inmate.

"One could make the argument that prison is the environment in which you perform best," he said.

Making an impassioned plea as family members wept behind him, Baker said he has the support to stay out of prison. This is his second time asking for parole, and Gallegos said he would either recommend life or release this time.

"I don't feel that we should keep going through this series of rehearings. You need to be able to get on with your life and your family as well," he said. "We have an aged man who has served the vast majority of his life incarcerated, whose health is starting to deteriorate, who has the love and support of an extended family and who tells me that he'll never commit another crime.

"Nevertheless, your criminal history speaks for itself, and we have to weigh all that in the decision we make."

As his hearing wrapped up, Baker was allowed to turn around and see his family.

"Hi! I love you!" his grandson shouted, standing on a chair and waving excitedly.

"I love you, Dad," his daughter said, choking back tears.

"I love you, too."

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com