Wednesday, June 13, 2007

2 face death in Daytona woman's murder

Staff Writer

PALM COAST -- A Flagler County man and woman charged with murdering a Daytona Beach grandmother will face a fight for their own lives.

The state will seek the death penalty for Cornelius Baker, 20, of Bunnell and Patricia Roosa, 19, of Flagler Beach in the January murder of Elizabeth Uptagrafft, State Attorney John Tanner said Tuesday.

In a telephone interview, Tanner said he decided to pursue the death penalty for the pair after careful review of the grisly circumstances of the case.

"This is different from your drug-deal-gone-wrong or a fit of anger between two spouses," he said. "This appears to have been . . . carried out with cold and conscious deliberation."

Baker and Roosa face charges of first-degree murder after police said they forced their way into Uptagrafft's home and pistol-whipped the grandmother and her son before kidnapping her. Uptagrafft's head was also grazed by a gunshot.

Baker later shot her and left the 56-year-old's body at a pine tree farm in Bunnell, investigators said. Both Baker and Roosa pleaded not guilty to the charges in February.

A Flagler County Sheriff's Office report states that Baker told investigators that "if he was going to get in trouble that he was going all the way and that is why he murdered (Elizabeth Uptagrafft)."

Reached by telephone Tuesday afternoon, Matthew Phillips, Baker's attorney, said it was "disappointing" but not surprising that Tanner's office is seeking the death penalty for his client.

"I've been expecting it all along," he said. "I've been approaching (the case) from that angle."

Phillips said the state's pursuit of the death penalty has intensified Baker's defense preparation. About 70 witnesses, including officers from Daytona Beach, Volusia and Flagler county law enforcement agencies, need to be interviewed.

Phillips said he's diving into Baker's background -- including psychiatric records -- to develop a defense. Baker also will undergo testing to determine his intelligence, Phillips said.

Tanner said his office is ready now to go to trial. But Phillips said the work he has ahead of him means the case isn't likely to go to trial until January.
"We'll just have to see how everything falls into place," he said. "You're only guaranteed one trial, so we want to do everything we can to make sure we're fully prepared . . "

Thomas Mott, Roosa's attorney, was unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Tanner said he hopes the state's pursuit of the death penalty will deter others.
"As long as the state of Florida has the penalty and it's applied judiciously, it will save lives," he said.

Uptagrafft's family could not be reached for comment Tuesday, nor could Roosa's.

Baker's grandmother, Thelma Smith, 64, of Bunnell said she has Uptagrafft's family in her heart, which also still has room for her grandson.

"I love him, but I don't love what he did," Smith said. "There's nothing I can do about it, just keep on praying. It's out of my hands."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All family members involved are victims of this crime. There is no win or lose in this fight!! Aunt Dean was a wonderful lady and would find it in her heart to even forgive the people who took her life. She was such a kind person. She would give you the shirt off her back if you just...asked for it. I will never understand why they decided her fate would be that of MURDER. God be with all families involved!