Friday, September 5, 2008

New Kid on the Row - Cornelius Baker

Some criminals, like Cornelius Baker and his girlfriend Patricia Roosa, are stupid. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. While casing a Daytona Beach neighborhood for future burglaries, Baker spied a 2004 Ford Crown Victoria and convinced himself that he had to have it. So instead of getting a job and working to buy a similar one, he decided to take the car by force. His stupid girlfriend went along with his plan. Within eighteen hours, one innocent person was dead, two others were injured and traumatized, and the thugs were looking at a possible date with Old Sharpie.

January 7, 2007.

At 8:30 Sunday morning, Elizabeth Uptagrafft, 58, heard someone knocking at the front door of her ranch-style home. When she opened it, a stranger began pistol-whipping her. One of the blows caused the .38-caliber revolver to discharge. The bullet grazed her skull and Elizabeth fell to the floor.

It was the beginning of an ordeal that would end with her death.

Cornelius Baker, 21, and Patricia Roosa, 20, both had criminal records. They were anxious to escape the heat of Florida and head to New York, so they decided to invade the house and steal the car of the occupants.

The homeowner’s screams and the gunshot brought Elizabeth’s 73-year-old mother out of her room. Charlene Burns, who suffered from chronic pulmonary disease and used oxygen tubes to breathe, later testified that as she came out into the hallway, she was attacked by Baker.

“My daughter was begging, ‘Please don’t hurt my mama,’” said Burns. As the helpless woman was punched mercilessly, she crumpled to the floor.

The commotion brought a third member of the household out of his bedroom. Joel Uptagrafft, 41, had been asleep. As he opened his door, Baker sucker-punched him. Like his mother, he was pistol-whipped with such brutality that within seconds, Joel lay unconscious on the floor.

Baker and Roosa spent two hours searching the house, stealing jewelry and $ 140 in cash. They also took Elizabeth’s credit card and forced her to reveal the pin number. Finally, Roosa yelled at Baker. “Hurry up,” she said. “Hurry up. Kill them if you you’re going to, but let’s go.”

The assailants dragged the bloodied Elizabeth Uptagrafft from her home and forced her into the car. In his confession, Baker later told investigators that he kidnapped her because he thought she had given him the wrong pin number for her ATM card.

They drove 24 miles north to Bunnell.

“Are you going to let me live?” Elizabeth asked.

Baker assured her that he wouldn’t kill her even as he drove to a remote area. A mile south of State Road 100, he drove down a dirt trail called Black Point Road.

Meanwhile, Joel Uptagrafft regained consciousness and made his way to a neighbor’s house. Sophia McDaniels answered the knock on the door. “This guy was standing there bleeding,” she said. “Blood was coming from his head. His whole face was covered in blood.” McDaniels didn’t recognize her neighbor. She left him on the porch while she called police.

Daytona Beach police quickly alerted agencies from surrounding counties. An area-wide search for the Crown Victoria and the missing woman began. Cops also put a trace on Elizabeth’s credit card. Within a short time, the card was used at a Winn-Dixie grocery store in Bunnell.

A few hours later, a Bunnell police officer, Sgt. Randy Burke, was patrolling the area around Winn-Dixie when he spotted the stolen car. As Burke attempted to stop it, Baker sped off. A few blocks away, the suspect crashed the car. He was able to get away from pursuing officers, but Roosa was captured. Two hours later, Baker was arrested.

It didn’t take long for him to crack. He told police that he had let Elizabeth out of the car, then decided to kill her. As he got out, the victim attempted to flee. Baker stated that he shot her twice. “She was falling,” he said, “and before she hit the ground, that’s when I fired. I fired the gun two times.”

Unfortunately, his story didn’t match the facts of Elizabeth’s death. Forensic evidence indicated that she’d been shot at point-blank range, once in the neck and once in the forehead. Powder burns showed that the gun was just a few inches away when it was fired.

In August, 2008, Cornelius Baker went on trial. After a two hour deliberation, he was found guilty of first degree murder and kidnapping. The jury voted 9-3 for the death penalty and Judge Kim C. Hammond concurred.

Brenda Gillespie, Elizabeth’s sister, agreed with the verdict. She said, “My sister deserves our government to stand up and say, ‘We are not going to have this. People can have breakfast and lay around on a Sunday morning without being murdered.’”

Daytona Beach Police Chief Michael Chitwood summarized the feelings of many who were in the courtroom. “[Elizabeth Uptagrafft] answers a knock at her door and she’s greeted with a smash to the side of her face and a gunshot that creases her forehead,” he said. “It was senseless. You could have robbed a 7-Eleven and got more money than they did here.”

Patricia Roosa’s trial will be held later this year. She also faces the death penalty if convicted.

Cornelius Baker will soon join 388 other inmates on Florida’s death row.

NOTE: Roosa was convicted and given life without parole.


Cowboy said...

These killers need to burn. I'd like to give them a necktie social myself. I still suffer from nightmares and PTSD to this day. Oh, that I would have had a .357 magnum in the room with me that day. Let's get justice and Please DON'T LET IT HAPPEN TO YOU!!!
-------------Joel Uptagrafft

Redbrdterry said...

I am sorry for your loss Joel and for the horror you experienced...I hope both are brought to justice.

Both deserve to die for this heinous and cowardly act.

Unknown said...

It's society's fault--they had troubled childhoods and should get probation, with job opportunities provided by the state as repayment for everything these two went through while growing up.

SemperRick said...

And this stupid bitch has the gall to put up a pen pal ad looking for somebody to love her and appreciate who she is regardless of the "mistake" she made. I hope she burns in the eternal fire of hell feeling the hellish burns for the rest of eternity never knowing any relief from the scorching pain of burning alive. Even that is to good for this sub human. I would really like her to be tied to a pole while a line of the most worthless people on this earth hock continuous wads of mucus filled saliva on her face and in her mouth, just the most heinous things that could be thought of for this disgusting lowlife pig.

MyTouchDroid said...

I know how you feel Joel, shortly before this incident I was carjacked and kidnapped by three black thugs, thankfully a police officer was doing his job and noticed the scumbags acting suspicious in my car, with me in the trunk after they stole $1000 out of an ATM at the same place the officer found the piece of dirt that found your Mom's murderer. A high speed chase ensued and they crashed. It was later found out they were taking me to a remote place to kill me as well but I was saved. I am sorry for your loss indeed.

Unknown said...

Joel, I am so very sorry for your loss. This is so tragic. I am watching it now on TV one. These people should burn in HELL!

Anonymous said...

Joel, I am so sorry for your loss. Unfortunately I now know what it is like to go through something so horrible. My husband was shot point blank in the chest. He died instantly on March 3 this year. I hope you had the opportunity to let both of the individuals know how you feel. The couple got exactly what they deserve. I too hope that the person responsible for my husband's murder gets what she deserves too. All of these rotten individuals need to rot in hell.

keykimberly said...

I am so sorry you had to live through an ordeal like that. I'm also sorry for your loss.

keykimberly said...

You must be joking! They deserve to rot in hell.

keykimberly said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Tainavieques79 said...

Sorry For Your Lost! I just found out about this case. In a Post somebody commented that they found a pen pal to write to that is On Death Row! Sorry For everything That happened to You!

Tainavieques79 said...

And I Just read a Comment from someone on FB that they are excited because they finally found someone to write to that's on Death Row. I Just learn about this case. It's do sad!!

Diane said...

Now she’s on TikTok playing the victim begging for money and to help get her out of there. She’s blaming everything on her co-defendant. Her TikTok username is patricia_roosa_

Diane said...

Now she’s on TikTok playing the victim. Her username is patricia_roosa_