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Danny Baker, a 28-year-old father of four, was shot in the back Monday night, Nov. 28, 1983, in the driveway of his brother-in-law’s southwest Cedar Rapids home after an argument with another guest over a boxing match they’d been watching on television.
Police said Baker and Willie B. Barney, 40, were inside Paul Galbreath’s 617 18th Ave. SW residence with several others — including Baker’s 9-year-old son Donyeal — prior to the shooting. The men had been drinking while watching the boxing match, and when Baker and Barney began arguing, Baker went out the front door sometime before 8 p.m. and Barney followed.
A few moments later Barney came back into the home alone and told Galbreath he should go check on Baker, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported Nov. 30, 1983.
According to Baker’s son, Barney removed a pair of gloves after coming inside and then went into the bathroom. Barney then left through the house’s back door.
Donyeal waited for his father to return and eventually went outside to look for him. He found his father lying at the end of the home’s driveway near the sidewalk in front of the house next door at 621 18th Ave. SW.
A Nov. 30, 1983 Gazette story by Mark Glenn stated:
Authorities said Galbreath called police at 9:31 p.m. and reported an intoxicated person at the 621 18th Ave. SW address. Police arrived at the scene and discovered a black male — Baker — lying in the yard. An ambulance was called, but rescue crews and police could not revive Baker. He was dead on arrival at Mercy.
Baker had been shot in the back, and a .32 caliber slug recovered from his body.
Police Chief Raymond Baker said the victim had been wearing heavy clothing and rescue personnel didn’t realize he’d been shot until after Baker was transported to the hospital and examined.
Barney turned himself over to authorities the following afternoon and was charged with first-degree murder. He listed his address as 617 18th Ave. SW — the same address where Galbreath lived.
A Linn County District Court seated a jury of seven men and five women Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 20, 1984, and opening testimony began Wednesday. Assistant County Attorney Susan Weller said the fatal shot was fired while a gun was in contact or near contact with Baker.
“It was fired just left of center in the back at a slight right to left angle and a slight upward angle,” she said in a Gazette article dated Feb. 23. “It went through to the liver, lung and heart, causing the heart to bleed into Baker’s chest.”
Defense attorney Larry Fugate produced witnesses who provided Barney an alibi that placed him away from the crime scene from shortly after 7:20 p.m. to about 7:45 p.m.
Jurors were not allowed to hear testimony about a similar incident in 1975 in which Barney had admitted to shooting a man at a Waterloo tavern after the two argued. The Iowa Supreme Court later overturned that conviction, stating the trial judge erred in not allowing testimony from a psychiatrist that Barney suffered from a psychological ailment.
Despite strong testimony by Baker’s 9-year-old son, jurors acquitted Barney of Baker’s murder after deliberating just one hour on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 1984.
No one else has ever been charged in Danny Baker’s murder.
The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported the following information February 12, 1995.
Rick Smith Gazette staff writer
Published: February 12, 1995
Before Robbie Morgan and Lindsey Wilson, there was Donyeal Galbreath. Galbreath was 9 once, too.
And by circumstance, he took his place, just as Robbie and Lindsey recently did, on the nightly news and the morning front page as a child witness testifying to an awful crime.
Celebrity, if that’s what it was, fades, says Galbreath, who now is 20 and living in Iowa City.
In 1983, the murder of his dad, Danny Baker, thrust Galbreath into the judicial spotlight. Willie Barney stood accused of the Cedar Rapids crime.
It was Galbreath’s small voice, with Barney sitting face to face with him across a Linn County courtroom, that was being counted on to put this grown man behind bars for life.
The moment is still a vivid one.
“It makes you grow up just like that,” explains Galbreath, “because the rest of your life you’ve got to think about all that stuff you said on the stand.”
A month ago, Galbreath watched on television as 9-year-old Robbie Morgan, in a ski mask, was led past a flock of newspeople and into the Lee County Courthouse.
Robbie, of Washington County, was an eyewitness in the murder of 9-year-old Anna Marie Emry near Houghton in Lee County. Robbie’s dad, Lary Morgan, was convicted of the crime.
“I saw my dad throw her in the ditch,” Robbie told the jury. He estimated Anna Marie yelled for help about 20 times.
More recently, it was Lindsey Wilson’s turn to testify.
She told a Linn County jury she was eating a doughnut and preparing for school in her northeast Cedar Rapids home as an argument heated up between her mother, Tammi, and her mother’s live-in boyfriend, Brian Sillick.
Sillick retreated, then returned with a sawed-off shotgun.
“Don’t do this in front of my kids,” Lindsey testified that her mother begged. Sillick pumped three shots into Lindsey’s mother with the little girl looking on. This past week, Sillick was convicted of murder.
For Galbreath, the court experience brought a more confusing ending. A jury found Willie Barney not guilty.
But, he figures, the result is much the same: That the court case is done does not mean the personal trial for the child witness is over.
“That’s not the way it goes,” explains Galbreath. “For me, it’s not like I started throwing up or anything. But you have to live with seeing something like that. It shakes you up for a while, I’ll tell you that much.
“They’re going to feel guilty. Because maybe they think they could have done something to prevent it. Or said something to stop it. They’re going to be going through those things for a while.”
Putting a youngster on the witness stand is not a decision made lightly, says Linn County Attorney Denver Dillard.
Dillard needed no clearer reminder than when he walked Lindsey Wilson into the courtroom, past the jury and up to the witness stand.
“I was holding her hand and I could feel her hand trembling,” Dillard says.
Certainly, he says, the experience is traumatic for the child. But as a prosecutor, Dillard says he weighs the worth of a child’s testimony against the harm testifying may cause the child.
In the end, though, Dillard is under no illusion. “I don’t believe putting a 9-year-old on the stand is good for the 9-year-old,” he says.
He did not, he notes, call Lindsey’s sister, Chelsea, who was 5 and at home the morning her mother was murdered.
“That was just too much to ask of her,” Dillard says.
Testifying is particularly difficult for youngsters when they they have to face a perpetrator in court. But the courtroom ordeal is not as traumatic as witnessing a terrible crime, says Dr. Kathleen Opdebeeck, medical director of the Child Protection Center at St. Luke’s Hospital.
In fact, suggests Opdebeeck, testifying can be therapeutic. It lets children tell their stories and gives them a feeling that they are helping get to the truth.
That’s not to say that attorneys aren’t capable of roughing up a child witness. Attorney insensitivity, she says, can make testifying more traumatic than it needs to be.
“Most people don’t go after the kids that way, though,” she says, “because it doesn’t look good for their case either.”
Opdebeeck suspects that children who witness violence are susceptible to a lingering post-traumatic stress disorder, not unlike what some Vietnam veterans have experienced. Recent studies are finding that violence – for instance, violence in the home – affects children more than most suspected, she says.
“Before, they used to think, ‘So what if Dad beats Mom, or Mom beats Dad,”‘ she says. “But now they are finding that it has much more long-term effect.”
Galbreath is living proof that children who experience bad things grow up, one way or another.
Today, he is articulate beyond his track record of school dropout, juvenile delinquent, recent gang member and adult probationer. He is the father of two young children.
Boyhood for Galbreath had been difficult even before his dad’s murder. He says his parents had a stormy, sometimes violent relationship, and that his dad had been to prison.
What he calls his last night as a boy began on a Monday evening, Nov. 28, 1983, when he tagged along with his dad to watch a TV boxing match at his uncle’s house at 617 18th Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids.
His dad, his uncle and a couple of friends were drinking hard and disagreeing over the boxing match. Disagreement turned to fighting. Galbreath’s dad, Danny Baker, and friend Willie Barney took the fight outside.
Galbreath worried when his dad did not return and went searching for him. He found him on the ground near the driveway. Barney was nowhere around. Baker died later at the hospital, a .32-caliber bullet in his back.
Galbreath says the next months leading up to trial were a whirlwind of visits from detectives, attorneys and counselors.
The boy testified at Barney’s trial that he had seen Barney come back inside after the fight with his father and rush out a rear door.
But Barney’s attorney disputed that. He said adults coached Galbreath in his testimony, and that Galbreath’s uncle and a housekeeper were likely responsible for the murder.
Barney was acquitted, leaving Galbreath older and angrier.
“I told them who killed my dad,” he recalls. “They (the defense attorney) just kept asking me, trying to get me to change my story, but my story wasn’t changing. … As a 9-year-old, I didn’t remember things good. Unless they were important. Especially when it had to do with my dad. The person in the world I loved the most.”
Galbreath’s moment of unsought court celebrity ended, but his behavioral problems were just beginning.
At first, he lived with his mother’s father in Iowa City, but soon he became more than his grandfather could handle. The Iowa Department of Human Services placed him in a series of foster homes, none of which worked well. Galbreath misbehaved at each stop.
“This is how I look at it, how my brain kind of took over,” he tells himself now. “A grown man kills another grown man, so why can’t I go out and act a fool on the streets, do what I want to do, and get away with it? What’s the difference?”
And he has pretty much done just that. He admits to having been an Iowa City thug and a gang member in his teen years. And he doesn’t object to his adult probation officer’s placing him in a halfway house in recent months until he gave up gang associations.
He doesn’t seem sure where he’s headed.
But he firmly hangs on to this: He would be different today if his father had not been murdered. His dad would have kept him in line.
In one way, Galbreath’s odyssey from child witness to young adult is unique: He still occasionally sees the man he testified against. On the street. In the grocery store. They lived in the same apartment complex for a time.
Willie Barney, says Galbreath, always comes up to him, to say he’s sorry for Galbreath’s loss and to repeat that he had nothing to do with the murder.
Galbreath mostly thinks Barney is massaging his own guilt, but Barney’s words have had an effect. Galbreath is finding it is easier to be certain of something as a 9-year-old than as a young adult.
“I don’t know,” says Galbreath. “I ask myself. I do. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m supposed to think.”
Copyright (c) 1995, 2000 Cedar Rapids Gazette
Danny Baker, 28, of 944 L St. SW, formerly of Minneapolis, Minn., and a Cedar Rapids Resident for four months, died Monday night, Nov. 28, 1983 from a gunshot wound.
Born May 6, 1955 in Minnesota, he married Stephanie Galbreath on Aug. 14, 1977, at Minneapolis.
In addition to his wife, survivors included his mother, Sarah Baker of Camden, Miss.; two sons, Donyeal Galbreath of Cedar Rapids and Daneal Harris of St. Paul, Minn.; a daughter, Keekna Harris of St. Paul, Minn.; a stepdaughter, Dawn Galbreath of Cedar Rapids; four sisters, Maggie Ross of Camden, Miss., and Arthurea Baker, Shirley Baker and Mary Ann Lindsay, all of Minneapolis; and a brother, Edward, also of Minneapolis.
Services were held Saturday, Dec. 3, 1983, at Peoples Funeral Home, Canton, Miss., with burial in Murphy Cemetery in Camden, Miss. Turner Chapel West handled local arrangements.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department currently has two Cold Case Unit volunteer investigators who work exclusively on unsolved homicides. These investigators work closely with other investigators from both the Cedar Rapids Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.
The current investigator assigned to the Cold Case Unit is J.D. Smith, a retired Agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
If you have any information about Danny Baker’s unsolved murder please call the Cold Case Unit at (319) 286-5919 or email Investigator J.D. Smith.