Winchester murder case results in two life sentences

Christopher Baker

WINCHESTER – A Winchester man convicted of first degree murder was sentenced Monday to two life sentences plus 25 years’ imprisonment.

Christopher Baker, 41, was convicted of first degree murder, unlawful stabbing, armed burglary, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit breaking and entering as the result of a June jury trial in Frederick County Circuit Court. The jury recommended two life sentences for the first-degree murder and armed burglary charges, 10 years’ imprisonment for each of the conspiracy charges and five years for the unlawful stabbing charge.

James Charles Westfall, 47, was found dead in his basement after law enforcement responded to his Frederick County residence in November 2014. Baker and Mark Syme were arrested in connection to the incident, and Syme was sentenced in July to 80 years’ imprisonment with 20 years suspended.

In his sentencing argument, Commonwealth’s Attorney Ross Spicer spoke about the “absolute absence of anything redeeming about Mr. Baker.” He went on to say that Baker has been involved with the criminal justice system since the age of 13, and “from there on, it just got worse.” Spicer also referenced four pages of Baker’s conduct in prison, saying he had made plans and efforts to escape.

John Bradley, an attorney representing Baker, said Baker was a “troublesome individual” but had maintained his innocence since the beginning of the case. He attributed Baker’s “acting out” to his frustration at being falsely imprisoned, and reported a list of Baker’s various diagnoses. He also referenced family and environmental information on Baker, reporting that he seemed to be hearing voices when he was young and used matches to set fire to a basement at age 3.

“This is a man who was born with problems,” Bradley told the court.

He told the court that Baker had said that the murder victim beat his children. Even if given a sentence at the low end of the guidelines, Baker would still end up dying in prison as an old man, Bradley said.

When asked if he had anything else to say, Baker simply maintained his innocence. Judge Clifford Athey Jr. followed the jury’s sentencing recommendation, noting that it was closely aligned to sentencing guidelines.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com