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Judge: Life Sentence Stands For Normal Woman In Girl's Murder

Cynthia Baker walks into court
David Proeber
The Pantagraph (Pool)
Cynthia Baker of Normal enters a McLean County courtroom.

Cynthia Baker’s life sentence in the beating death of an 8-year-old girl will stand, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

Judge Casey Costigan denied a defense motion to reconsider the sentence handed down Nov. 19 on murder charges related to the January 2019 death of Rica Rountree. The girl died of internal injuries inflicted by Baker while she lived with Baker and her father, Richard Rountree.

In his motion for a lesser sentence, defense lawyer Phil Finegan argued the life term was excessive, given Baker’s lack of a criminal record.

Assistant State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds countered the defense position, saying life behind bars is appropriate for Baker. The sentence falls within state guidelines and reflects the jury’s finding that Rica’s death was the result of wanton cruelty by Baker, she said.

In his rejection of the defense request, Costigan said he reviewed his notes and the factors he considered in his sentencing decision.

“The court believes the sentence was appropriate,” said Costigan.

Finegan asked that a notice of appeal be filed on Baker’s behalf and the state appellate prosecutor appointed to handle the appeal to the Fourth District Appellate Court.

Baker’s conviction in November 2019 followed a trial in which jurors saw cell phone videos recorded by Baker showing her disturbing physical abuse of the child. The so-called discipline was called “pure evil” and “demented” by the judge.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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