Clifford Baker was fifteen years old when he would fatally shoot his neighbors in Illinois. According to court documents Clifford Baker would break into the home of his neighbors and shoot dead the man and woman while they slept in their bed. This teen killer would be sentenced to two life sentences without parole.
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Clifford Baker Other News
The Loogootee man who was a teenager when convicted of two murders in the small Fayette County community Monday was sentenced to 85 years in prison for the murders and for two counts of home invasion.
Clifford Baker was 15 years old at the time of the murders of Mike Mahon and Deb Tish in their home in 2010. He was convicted of the murders and of entering their home and the home of another neighbor the following year. Baker was sentenced to natural life in prison without possibility of parole.
The US Supreme Court later ruled that life without possibility of parole for those under age 18 is unconstitutional, and declared that ruling was retroactive, meaning Baker’s sentence was thrown out. His convictions remained in place, though, so Baker has remained in prison while awaiting the resentencing.
Following about 90 minutes of testimony Monday morning, Judge Allan Lolie took 20 minutes to finalize the sentence.
The judge sentenced Clifford Baker to 37-1/2 years in prison on each of the murder counts, and those sentences will run one after the other. Baker was also sentenced to 10 years in prison on each of the home invasion counts and those will run concurrently, but will follow the two murder terms. The home invasion sentences do qualify for day-for-day good time, but the murder counts do not, meaning Clifford Baker will have to serve both of the full murder terms.
Clifford Baker More News
Clifford Baker was a teenager when he was sentenced to life in prison for killing two of his Fayette County neighbors in 2010. Now 22, he was sentenced again on Monday for the crime to a term that means he’ll still spend the rest of his days behind bars.
Relatives of the victims breathed sighs of relief after the hearing.
“No other family has to go through the nightmare we have endured for coming up on seven years,” said one.
Baker, formerly of Loogootee, entered the home of Mike M. Mahon, 60, and Debra J. Tish, 53, and shot both to death on the early morning of Aug. 4, 2010. He also entered the home of two other people, cutting one of them above the eye. He was arrested that morning and later convicted during a jury trial.
Under Illinois law at the time, he was automatically transferred to adult court, where he was sentenced to a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that automatically applying such sentences for juvenile offenders was unconstitutional.
In 2016, the court established its ruling was retroactive, requiring states to reconsider the sentence of inmates like Baker. The Illinois Appellate Court ruled that Baker needed another sentencing hearing and the case returned to Fayette County.
State’s Attorney Joshua Morrison asked Judge Allan Lolie to institute a life sentence, a term that the Supreme Court established could be imposed at the trial court’s discretion after review.
Lolie opted for a sentence that works out to 80 years in prison, saying it was effectively a life sentence.
“Hopefully it brings closure to the family. That’s what it comes down to,” said Morrison.
That’s a hope for Melissa Mahon, Mike Mahon’s daughter.
“Glad this can hopefully, finally, give us a chance to heal,” she said.
She is concerned about the 30-day window during which Baker could appeal the decision, which would bring them back to the courthouse and the memories of the murder.
“We shouldn’t have to go through this,” she said.
Their initial response was that of confusion as to what happened, followed by fear that Baker might get out, then hurt — both from the crime and the surrounding talk.
“Our family understood that the term would be in matters of years, rather than simply life term. We also understood that it could also offer parole as an option so we were prepared for anything. Needless to say when it was all said and done today, we were ecstatic at the result,” LaTisha Paslay, Tish’s niece, said in an email to the Effingham Daily News.
The result means “no other family has to go through the nightmare we have endured for coming up on seven years,” she wrote.
Melissa Mahon said she hoped it would give her family a chance to heal. But Paslay put it differently.
“There will never be ‘peace’ for our family. It has been 2,435 days since Clifford Baker murdered Deb and Mike. We feel that loss every second of each and every day. We understand the judicial process has steps that are required and although it is tough every time you attend a hearing, we are the voices for Deb and Mike and we will always be there to be sure their lives are remembered,” she wrote.
Both women recalled their lost family members, describing the two as loving, caring and outgoing.
“Deb and Mike were the most loving, outgoing people you could ever meet. They would give you the shirts off their backs if they thought you needed it more than them,” Paslay wrote.
Mike J. Mahon worked as a tractor and farm equipment mechanic until heart troubles forced his retirement. After that, his daughter remembers him always being available to help her and her children, or anyone else in the community. He was an outdoorsman, often hunting with his youngest son, Chad, other family or friends.
“If they were still with us, they would simply have continued living like they did: loving life and their families and we would all continue being together as much as we all could,” Paslay wrote.
The defense had argued that Baker had a mental illness that was being treated with Cymbalta, an anti-depressant, and presented an involuntary intoxication defense. They argued the medication led to a number of problems; that the drugs caused Baker to lose touch with reality.
Clifford Baker’s family declined comment.