By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
John C. Baker, owner of Centralia’s effectively abandoned Greenwood Memorial Park, has had a troubled decade since the cemetery sexton was charged with threatening a woman with a gun in 2007.
On Tuesday, he was arrested on the same charge — second-degree assault with a deadly weapon — after alleged threats with a knife following an argument over groceries.
“I plead innocent,” Baker said in court Wednesday.
Although he will not have an opportunity to formally enter a plea in the case until next week, Baker protested his innocence.
“I can’t even envision it,” he said.
Baker, 74, of Centralia, made his first appearance on the charge Wednesday in Lewis County Superior Court.
Deputy Prosecutor Sarah Beigh, noting Baker’s previous conviction for second-degree assault and a lengthy history of run-ins with law enforcement, asked for $250,000 bail.
“Mr. Baker has a lot of history,” Beigh said. “This would be a second strike.”
Baker was convicted in the 2007 second-degree assault case. He has also been accused of stealing from the cemetery’s endowment fund, violating anti-harassment orders, misdemeanor assault, trespassing and stalking. He technically owns Greenwood cemetery but is prohibited from entering its grounds through a court order, leading the Washington State Funeral and Cemetery Board to declare it abandoned in 2015.
Defense attorney Rachael Tiller asked for a reduced bail amount, noting that Baker has not had a criminal conviction in four years, but Superior Court Judge Joely O’Rourke granted the state’s request out of a concern for community safety.
However, in July Baker was arrested by the Centralia Police Department on a misdemeanor assault charge after allegedly punching his roommate in the arm over a dispute about soda.
In the incident leading to his most recent charges, officers from the Centralia Police Department responded Tuesday to a report of an assault in the 200 block of East Chestnut Street, according to court documents.
The alleged victim told police he rents Baker a room in the home he owns. He said “Baker is constantly threatening to do him harm,” according to court documents.
The man reported he returned to the home with groceries Tuesday and told Baker to stay away from his food. Baker then allegedly became angry and threatened to hurt the victim.
The victim told police he “told Baker to go ahead and do it,” and said Baker came at him with a large knife. The victim reported he believed Baker would stab him.
Another resident of the home witnessed the incident, according to court documents.
Baker reportedly did not comment on the alleged assault to officers but led them to the knife, wedged in a tree outside the home.
Baker was appointed an attorney. His next court hearing is scheduled for Oct. 19.