Crime & Courts

McCullom Lake man pleads guilty to shooting father in 2015

Michael L. Bakker, 49, of McCullom Lake
Michael L. Bakker, 49, of McCullom Lake

A McCullom Lake man was sentenced to 45 years in prison Monday for the 2015 murder of his father, whose death prosecutors said went unreported for weeks.

Forged text messages sent from Daniel Bakker’s phone led family members to believe he still was alive until relatives discovered the man’s decomposing body two weeks after his slaying.

On Monday, Daniel’s 49-year-old son, Michael L. Bakker, accepted a plea deal that offered the minimum penalty for first-degree murder with a firearm. The sentence, which must be served in its entirety, means Michael Bakker won’t be eligible for release until he is almost 93 years old.

Although Michael Bakker accepted the sentence willingly, he entered a specific kind of plea that acknowledges prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him at trial, but allows him to personally maintain his innocence.

Michael Bakker has long claimed the shooting of Daniel Bakker was an accident, said his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Kim Messer.

A bench trial for the case was scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Prosecutors said in court Monday that on Sept. 4, 2015, Michael Bakker shot his father in the back of the head with a pistol. The victim was found by his daughter and son-in-law Sept. 17 at his McHenry home. His body was seated upright on a sofa with a blanket draped over his head, court records show.

The next day, officials arrested Michael Bakker at a hotel room in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Police said that after the shooting, Michael Bakker used his father’s cellphone to send text messages to other family members.

Relatives claimed they were led to believe Daniel Bakker was alive but receiving medical treatment and unable to talk, according to a criminal complaint.

Daniel Bakker’s daughter, Deborah Petska, read a prepared statement to Michael Bakker in court Monday, referring to their father as “hardworking” and “a loyal friend” who called her every morning just to check in.

“He never stopped caring,” Petska said.

Although Petska accused Michael Bakker of showing no regret for their father’s death, Messer said her client has expressed remorse during their meetings together.

Had the case gone to trial as planned, prosecutors could have presented evidence including a recorded interview with Michael Bakker, Verizon phone data, hotel video footage and testimony from several local police officers, records show.

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