Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Haunted Crime Scenes: The Murder of Samuel T. Baker

An Intriguing Theory

Another, more intriguing theory has also sprung up in the intervening century since Samuel Baker's murder. That theory postulates that it was a policeman who ran across Samuel as he strolled home through Colonial Park Cemetery and that for some reason the policeman cracked the elderly accountant across his skull with a nightstick. Other Savannah police officers helped cover up the beating that led to Samuel's death.

Samuel Baker's granddaughter, Marie Hopkins Steadman, claimed she knew the name of the officer who killed her grandfather. Since Mrs. Steadman was born in 1900 and was only a year old when Samuel Baker was killed, she must have learned the story of his death from her mother, Samuel's daughter, or her father, Samuel's son-in-law, E.M. Hopkins. It was Hopkins who found Samuel locked up in the police barracks on the night he died, charged with the relatively minor offense of public intoxication, and, although severely wounded, not receiving any medical attention.

Although she maintained until her death in 1999 that the officer who killed her grandfather had later made a deathbed confession, Mrs. Steadman took his name to her grave.

While the notion that a policeman clubbed Samuel Baker in the cemetery and left him with injuries so severe that he died hours later is indeed intriguing, as a solution to a crime it lacks an essential elementmotive.

Samuel Baker was no stranger in Savannah. As an aging Civil War veteran and an accountant he would have been at least fairly well-known about town. He also lived within easy walking distance of the police barracks and passed quite near them twice a day on his way to and from his office. Many of the officers may have known him by sight.

So why would a policeman who saw Samuel Baker shuffling along with his cane in the cemetery pull out a nightstick and beat the old man?

Although it's possible that a city policeman had a personal grudge against Samuel and took the opportunity of his crossing the cemetery at midnight to ambush him, it seems unlikely. The theory has no evidence to support it except the uncorroborated recollections of a 99-year-old woman who was only one year old at the time.

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