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Before students were slain, Destin man charged in shooting behaved strangely

DESTIN — When Dannie Baker's neighbors awoke to gunfire and sirens, many suspected instantly he was involved — his sometimes racist, often religious ramblings had taken a more ominous tone lately.

Authorities say Baker grabbed a rifle, walked across a parking lot and began firing through the window into a townhome where about 20 young people, many of them part of a cultural exchange program, were socializing Feb. 25.

When the shooting ended, Chilean students Racine Balbontin-Aragondona, 22, and Nicolas Pablo Corp Torres, 23, were dead and three others were wounded. Baker has been charged with capital murder.

Baker's behavior leading up to the slayings raised some alarms.

The day of the shootings, he asked neighbor Jim Turner if he "had ever renounced God," Turner said.

"He said a lot of people had and that they needed to be murdered," Turner said.

Now there are questions about whether Baker's statements should have been seen as warnings rather than as the meaningless ravings of a deranged man.

Baker, 60, wears a ragged beard and long, unkempt hair. He has long been considered strange by neighbors in this Panhandle beach town.

Liz Rushing moved away from the complex where Baker lived several years ago partly because she didn't want her family living near him.

She said Baker's rants about religion and politics didn't make sense, but he appeared more mentally disturbed than motivated by hate.

"He just acted like someone who should have been in a hospital, not out with the general public," she said.

Before students were slain, Destin man charged in shooting behaved strangely 03/13/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 13, 2009 10:56pm]

    

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