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Raven Wolf

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Story last updated at 9:10 p.m. on Saturday, January 20, 2001

University of Georgia Law School student Tara Baker was found slain in her fire-damaged home Friday.

Friends and associates of Tara Baker expressed shock and sadness Saturday, remembering her as a kind and dedicated student.

Baker, a first-year law student from Lovejoy, was found dead in her burned apartment Friday, a day before her 24th birthday and hours from when she was first noticed missing for a 9:30 a.m. class.

''It's really a tragedy. She was one of the kindest people,'' said Carin Burford, former roommate and second-year law student.

Burford said fellow students had noticed Baker missing from her law classes Friday afternoon.

''In first-year law school, you take notice when they're gone because they rarely miss class,'' Burford said. ''To my knowledge, no one had seen her in class.''

Burford said friends and fellow students thought Baker had perhaps missed her afternoon classes in preparation for her birthday Saturday.

Baker was found alone in her Fawn Drive home at about 11:30 a.m. Friday by firefighters who were called to a fire at the duplex. Police believe the fire was an attempt to cover up Baker's murder.

Baker lived with Burford from summer 1999 to August 2000 in a Timothy Road apartment before Baker moved in with a mutual friend at the Fawn Drive address.

Burford describes Baker as a genuine person and a vivacious reader.

''She loved to read the classics and had very classic sensibilities. She loved old movies,'' Burford said. ''To me, she was a lot more grounded then other students I lived with. She was a great roommate and worked hard to save money to go to law school.''

According to Burford, Baker had taken a few years off after her undergraduate work at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville to save money for law school, working as a paralegal at the Athens firm Fortson and Bentley. She said Baker's intention was to become a real estate attorney.

Paul Kurtz, the associate dean of the UGA School of Law, knew Baker as a student in one of the law classes he teaches.

''I knew her to be a bright outgoing, nice young woman,'' Kurtz said. ''It's a shock to the community. The law school is very much a community that spends a lot of time together.''

Second-year law student Chad Kelly said Saturday he did not know Baker but said her death would indeed impact her fellow first-year law students.

''The fact that she was a first-year student amplifies the impact because they have that comradery of a first-year class,'' Kelly said. ''That empty seat will always be staring at them.''

Lauren Norcross, also a second-year law student, said though she didn't know Baker she was alarmed when her mother called to check on her after hearing about Baker's death on TV news.

''She called to see if it was someone I knew,'' Norcross said. ''It's really sad, especially since they're having to do an investigation.''

Jan Neubauer, a 20-year resident of Athens and UGA graduate, said she found the news of Baker's death appalling.

''I hope we never become desensitized to this kind of crime,'' Neubauer said. ''We don't have heinous crimes like this in Athens very often and we need to feel outraged about this.''

Richard Rose, UGA assistant vice president for student affairs, met Friday night with Baker's family and roommates to offer sympathy and support.

''The police are handling the event. Our duty is to our students and their families to try to offer them the support and comfort they need,'' Rose said. ''The university offers many programs to students and their families and we hope that those who need help through this time will take advantage of them.''

Counselors will meet with Baker's classes in the Law School on Monday and information on counseling will be distributed to student residences in her neighborhood.

For more information about counseling or bereavement support, call the Mental Health Clinic of the University Health Center at (706) 542-2273, or contact the on-call counselor through the UGA Police Department at (706) 542-2200.

Northeast Georgia reporter Janis Reid can be reached at jreid@onlineathens.com or (706) 208-2233.

There are several very strange things about her murder, and it has yet to be solved. This happened about a 30 minute drive away from where I am now, in Athens, Georgia. I remember when I first saw something on the news about this case. I'd just started to hear the "call" of Millennium, and this case really interested me. NOW, I have the ability to look into it. It has never been solved. There are still broken hearts, unanswered questions. She was found, beaten, stabbed multiple times, and strangled...on the floor of her bedroom. Someone had set her bed on fire, and set a fire in the kitchen, leaving all 4 of her stovetop burners on. (gas burners, I assume) Her bedroom door was LOCKED. Her front door was LOCKED and deadbolted. The ONLY thing missing from her home was her laptop computer.

Anyone interested yet???

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Guest Moriarty

Hi Raven. I am interested but from your post there is really not a lot to go on. Do you have more information about the case? A link or so?

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Yes, I have a link or two. I've cut and pasted all the articles from the webpage where I found them into my group site. But, I'd like to send you an invitation to the MSN group I've set up. It's a hidden group, so you'll have to PM me your email address so I can invite you.


If you click on that link, I don't think you'll see anything.

If you want to sift through all the newspaper articles, here is the link where I cut and pasted everything from.


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