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Two hour pretrial hearing held for Cody Baker murder case

Lawyers for both sides of a man’s murder trial argued several different aspects of the upcoming case in Boone County.

Circuit Judge Jodie Asel considered 35 motions in limine during 32-year-old Cody Baker’s pre-trial hearing. Authorities believe Baker killed Finley Steele, Baker’s girlfriend’s 8-month-old daughter, in February 2014. The girl’s mother, 25-year-old Anna Steele, called 9-1-1 when she found her daughter pale and unresponsive on February 28 around 2:50 a.m. Baker was arrested and charged later that day for murder, when doctors determined the child died of blunt force trauma, with a 12-centimeter fracture to her skull.

Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight and defense attorney Jeffrey Hilbrenner discussed what arguments would and would not be allowed in Baker’s trial, starting September 15. Many motions dealt with potential evidence about drug use, financial struggles and prior acts of violence from both Baker and Steele. Prosecutor Knight’s motions ultimately alerted Judge Asel that if Hilbrenner presented any evidence concerning those topics against Steele, he would be able to do the same for Baker.

Baker and Steele lived with Finley in the basement of Anna’s parents home in Columbia. Police said in a probable cause statement for Baker that they found blood on some items in the basement of the Steeles’ home while investigating Finley’s death. Hilbrenner withdrew his motion to exclude any mention of blood found at the crime scene, saying he believed the state was exaggerating on the amount of blood found there. Knight called it a “key” piece of evidence, as the blood was found on clothing Finley was wearing while Baker took care of her.

Judge Asel will decide on whether she will allow admission of some specific pieces of evidence at a later date, or as the trial progresses.

Anna Steele was arrested the day after Finley’s death, and was also charged with murder, based on her allegedly leaving the child in an abusive enviornment. In July, prosecutors dropped that charge, but kept the child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child charges. Steele’s attorney, Andrew Poppelwell, said she knew nothing of the abuse going on her home. Her trial date is set for December 2.

(Editor’s note, 9/1, 3:21 p.m.: The story clarifies the nature of the charges filed against Anna Steele.)

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