The Bluffton News - 101 N. Main St. - P.O.Box 49 - Bluffton, OH 45817
Phone: 419-358-8010 Fax: 419-358-8020
by Austin Arnold
The first sentencing has been handed out in the case that involves two men from Kentucky and their activity of engaging in sexual conduct with a Bluffton minor.
Robert W. Baker was sentenced to four years and nine months in federal prison on Wednesday January 5, 2011 for his involvement in an incident that took place on February 19, 2010 at the Knights Inn Motel after he and his father, Ernest W. Baker, traveled to Bluffton from Kentucky.
Robert could have been sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison but his punishment was reduced due to his plea and willingness to testify against his father. Bluffton Police Chief Rick Skilliter said the elder, Ernest, is expected to receive a much longer sentence as he is the main player in the case.
Just days after the incident in Bluffton, authorities in Kentucky contacted the Bluffton Police Department after Ernest Baker got into a domestic dispute with his wife after she had found photographs on Baker’s cell phone that suggested potential criminal activity. An investigation by the Bluffton P. D. was launched on February 22nd and the elder Baker was apprehended shortly after. Only after Ernest Baker’s arrest was the discovery of his son’s involvement.
Ernest Baker first got in contact with the Bluffton minor through several social networking communications, where he used an alias.
“Unfortunately I don’t think this was his first encounter with establishing a relationship with a young girl on-line,” Skilliter said.
With the ever-growing popularity of social networking and technology, cases like these are increasing in frequency, even in small-town areas such as Bluffton. Skilliter said there were four cases, of this nature, just this past year and are becoming more and more problematic.
With this in mind, Skilliter offered a couple of basic guidelines to parents and children to avoid potentially dangerous situations, such as this case.
“For parents, it’s important to keep track of who your children are talking to. And, for children, young adults, and anyone, just be aware of giving out personal information online, it’s not a safe thing to do. Anybody who knows you on an intimate level knows your personal information, so there’s no reason to share it online,” Skilliter said.
The local minor in the case has received emotional support from Crime Victim Services, a United Way based victim assistance program in Ohio.
Considering the facts, Skilliter said there was potential for this case turning out much worse than it already did.
“We’re lucky because a number of these cases turn out to be violent in the end, and we’re fortunate that didn’t happen in this case,” Skilliter said.
Ernest Baker is scheduled to be sentenced on February 23, 2011. The case is being resolved in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky, to avoid having the victim re-living the incident that could cause further distress.