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Man with history of trespassing arrested on burglary charge after incident at Grizzly Lofts


A West Plains man awaiting the resolution of three active cases related to alleged trespassing and possession of a controlled substance has now been charged with additional felonies related to alleged incidents at the Grizzly Lofts this month.

Donald E. Baker, 39, is formally charged with resisting arrest for a felony, first-degree burglary and first-degree harassment, all filed Feb. 6.

At about 7:45 p.m. on Feb. 5, Baker allegedly made his way into the Grizzly Lofts apartments on Missouri Avenue, owned by Missouri State University-West Plains, by entering a door as it was closing behind residents. The doors are normally accessed by a key card that prevents access by unauthorized people and lock automatically when closed, West Plains Police Officer Jacob Brixey reported to prosecutors.

Brixey noted that Baker had allegedly entered the building twice during the incident, but officers weren't able to locate him after they arrived at the scene.

Two victims told the officer they were walking in the front doors when Baker ran at them to reach the door before it closed, and confirmed the man to be Baker when shown a picture of the suspect. The two reportedly feared Baker's intentions and locked themselves in an interior room about 20 yards away from the front door.

One victim said she opened the inside door a few minutes later and it appeared Baker was sitting on a couch waiting for her, so she went back into the room.

A witness told Brixey he found Baker in a community room and was able to talk him out of the room and out of the building without incident.

However, another witness said he had just exited the apartments and saw Baker on the sidewalk outside before he again entered the building by running in the door as it was closing. The witness then reported the incident to university staff, and a person inside the building chased after Baker, who then reportedly ran out of a door before he could be caught.

Brixey added he saw video footage of a man in the community room of the building he confirmed to be Baker.

A warrant was issued for Baker's arrest and, the next day, officers were dispatched at about 9 a.m. to Missouri Avenue to find the suspect in the parking lot of the university property he had been trespassed from the day before.

When Officer Austin Deshazo attempted to arrest Baker on the active warrant, Baker reportedly kept pulling away from the officer. He then reportedly fled on foot as officers ordered him to stop several times and continued trying to pull away and kick at officers as they detained him.

A syringe was found in Baker's pocket when he was searched after arrest, Brixey said. Baker is held on a $10,000 bond related to the trespassing incident and a $5,000 bond on the charge of resisting arrest.

Court records from a Feb. 15 case review show Baker was denied a public defender and requested a hearing, which was held this week on Wednesday in the courtroom of Associate 37th Circuit Judge R. David Ray. An indigency hearing was held and it was determined an appointment of counsel is appropriate “in the interest of justice,” and the public defender’s office is to represent Baker, with a counsel status hearing set for Friday, the records note.

Baker has pleaded not guilty to all three of the charges, they show.

He has three other active cases listed in public court records. In both May and September he was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance; the second charge was filed after deputies reportedly caught Baker, in 2022, in possession of a substances, a stainless steel cup with residue that field-tested positive for methamphetamine and several syringes.

In that incident, deputies had been called to the South Fork Dollar General because Baker showed up there and store management wanted him trespassed. Before deputies arrived, Baker reportedly left by bicycle and headed west on U.S. 160, and deputies located him on E Highway to inform him he wasn't to return to the Dollar General.

About 30 minutes after the initial call, dispatch received a second call from a nearby homeowner living on E Highway saying a man later identified as Baker was banging on the door and trying to turn the locked door knobs. Baker was arrested soon after and a search turned up the alleged methamphetamine and syringes.

In December, a misdemeanor first-degree trespassing charge was filed after Baker allegedly trespassed at a home in Howell County that was plainly posted.

His criminal history, all in Howell County, includes a conviction of misdemeanor unlawful use of drug paraphernalia in 2015; Alford pleas entered in 2016 to two charges of felony possession of a controlled substance, for which he was sentenced to three years of probation; a guilty plea in 2020 to a 2019 charge of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia for which he paid a $149.50 fine; and in 2021, two convictions of misdemeanor first-degree trespassing, with sentences of 15 days in jail on each case.