Reporters hate to get beat, but I have to tip my hat to Erin Moriarty of CBS’s 48 Hours. Tomorrow evening, on Saturday, October 30, CBS is broadcasting back-to-back 48 Hours Mystery programs that examine the case of Matt Baker, the Baptist preacher in Waco who went from talented, up-and-coming pastor to grieving husband whose wife committed suicide to murder suspect maintaining his innocence to convicted killer.
In March 2008, I wrote a cover story on Matt and his wife, Kari. As part of that piece, I wrote about Matt’s alleged second life with other women that suggested he was hardly the humble, gentle pastor that so many people in Waco believed he was. I also wrote about the evidence suggesting that Matt had a mistress, Vanessa Bulls, a beautiful young woman who happened to be the daughter of the choir director at Matt’s church.
It was a fascinating case, with enough twists and turns to fill up a thriller. Matt was arrested, then charges were dropped, then there was a civil suit against him that led to a new indictment, which finally led to one of the most explosive murder trials in modern Texas history.
But Moriarty did something that no other journalist did: She stayed with the case, returning to Texas from New York dozens of times to interview Matt, his attorney, the prosecution, the police, and Kari’s mother, Linda Dulin, who refused to accept that her daughter had committed suicide, eventually hiring private investigators to look again at the case, which the police originally had dismissed as a suicide.
Moriarty told me that what makes Saturday night’s shows especially interesting is James Gray, Matt’s defense attorney. He allowed Moriarty and her crew to follow him from the very beginning as he put together his defense. At first, Gray is the great defender of Matt, convinced of his innocence, taking the case pro bono to right the wrongs of prosecutorial misconduct. And, for a while, you wonder if he is on the right path. But CBS’s cameras are there to catch Gray as he first realizes something is amiss. By the time Moriarty sits down with Gray after the trial for her final interview, he is a devastated, betrayed man who realizes that he has been completely misled. “It’s a rare moment when