The 49-year-old Whitefish man who pleaded guilty to attacking, restraining and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend was sentenced Thursday to seven years in the Montana Department of Corrections with two years suspended.
Dylan Thomas Baker in September entered an Alford plea to a felony count of criminal endangerment and a misdemeanor count of partner or family member assault before Flathead District Judge Amy Eddy.
An Alford plea occurs when a defendant maintains and asserts his or her innocence but acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence that, if presented to a jury, could result in a conviction.
On Nov. 16, Judge Amy Eddy presided over the sentencing hearing in Flathead County District Court, where she did not accept the state’s recommendation of 10 years in the Montana Department of Corrections with five years suspended, but instead imposed seven years with five years suspended. Baker was also sentenced to the Flathead County Detention Center for 365 days with 364 suspended for his misdemeanor count, to run concurrently with his felony sentence. He was given credit for 386 days served.
Baker’s plea was part of a deal with prosecutors, which he entered on the morning of his scheduled seven-day trial on Sept. 18 when Deputy Flathead County Attorney Stacy Boman reduced his charges. The defendant originally pleaded not guilty in December 2021 to a felony count of kidnapping, a second felony count of strangulation – both of which were amended – and a third felony count of assault with a weapon, which prosecutors dropped.
As part deal, Judge Eddy dismissed a separate felony count of criminal possession of dangerous drugs. Baker was charged last December after a woman turned in a backpack belonging to the defendant containing methamphetamine to the Whitefish Police Department.
In the state’s recommendation, Boman argued that Baker should be sentenced to 10 years with five suspended and said that he needed to be held accountable.
“He needs to address his behavior, his use of illegal drugs and criminal thinking,” Boman said.
Baker’s defense attorney Benjamin Darrow argued that since it was his first felony conviction, and because he didn’t attempt to contact or harm the victim while he was released, a six-year deferred sentence was more appropriate.
“His conduct was the result of circumstances that are unlikely to occur again,” Darrow said. “He has taken responsibility by taking this plea agreement. He also gave up the opportunity to fight this in certain ways. I think it was hard for him to do that because he expected to go to trial … prior to trial there was a significant amount of evidence that was released in very short notice that made it very hard to determine what the outcome would be.”
The victim in the case testified at the sentencing hearing, telling the court that she did not agree with the state’s recommended sentencing.
“This has been a long process,” the victim testified, avoiding eye contact with the defendant. “I seemed to have fallen through a lot of cracks in the system.”
“I know it’s not up to me what happens and how this gets sentenced, but I do feel that Mr. Baker is not just a threat to me, I think he’s dangerous because he lacks self-control – and that’s what makes a dangerous person.”
According to court documents, the victim on Nov. 16 was granted a temporary order of protection in Flathead County District Court.
The defendant’s ex-wife also testified at the hearing, who said her former husband of more than 20 years had never physically assaulted her or their two sons. She described him as a “good guy” who was always there to help his neighbors.
Baker apologized to the victim during the hearing and said that he took responsibility for his actions.
“I take responsibility for my conduct with her throughout our relationship – not to the degree she is accusing me of – but I will say that our relationship became toxic in some ways,” Baker said. “I absolutely regret my role in that.”
According to charging documents, the Whitefish Police Department received a report on Dec. 13, 2021 after 10 p.m. of a female who appeared at a residence on Monegan Road in Whitefish who was “screaming and afraid someone was looking for her.”
Officers arrived to find a “highly distraught” woman with bruises on her face, duct tape sticking to her hair and wrists, who was missing her pants and shoes, and bleeding from her knees and feet. The victim told officers she’d been assaulted and restrained by Baker who was likely chasing her with a Polaris side-by-side.
Court records state the woman told officers she’d recently broken off a relationship with Baker and was moving out of his house when Baker “went nuts.” He began striking her and strangling her until she lost consciousness before taking her to the basement and binding her face, head, hands, feet and legs together with duct tape. Baker allegedly said “she was going to die.” When he left the room – likely to get more supplies – she wriggled out of her boots and pants, escaped the basement and ran to the nearest neighbor’s house, according to court records.
While at the scene, an officer observed a side-by-side driving on Monegan Road and sheriff’s deputies later discovered a side-by-side parked behind a business with fresh footprints in the snow leading to Baker’s residence.
Officers located Baker, who told them he had been home all night and had no knowledge of the report. After searching the residence, records state, law enforcement found duct tape matching the tape found on the woman as well as what appeared to be her pants, boots and belt in the basement and wet boots with tread matching the footprints in the snow.
If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, the Abbie Shelter operates a 24-hour crisis helpline at (406) 752-7273. Additional information can be found at www.abbieshelter.org.
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