Justice for Tara Louise Baker

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation Cold Case Unit has announced the arrest of 48 year old Edrick Lamont Faust in connection with the 23 year old murder of Tara Louise Baker.

Tara was a law student at The University of Georgia when her life was taken and was later the subject of a podcast series called Classic City Crime, hosted by Cameron Jay. Cameron revisited the case several years ago and befriended Tara’s family, becoming a fierce advocate for justice in her case. In it he details what we knew of her murder; she was found deceased in her apartment after someone had intentionally set it on fire. The water damage from rain that day and effort to extinguish the flames damaged the crime scene, which with the technology and crime solving methods available in 2001 meant the case would likely remain unsolved forever.

In 2022, I met Cameron after I had agreed to take on a pro-bono legislative lobbying effort for the family of Rhonda Sue Coleman, another high profile, unsolved murder case in Jeff Davis County. The Coleman and Baker families had become bonded through their shared efforts to seek justice for their daughters.

The lobbying effort saw me visiting with the staff of ultra-liberal member of Congress, Eric Swalwell in D.C., where I learned important details on a bi-partisan effort to allow families to apply for a review of murder cases under FBI jurisdiction. The gap in our political ideologies has never been lost on me and shows that when it comes to basic issues of concepts like justice, setting those differences aside is the when progress can be made. What I learned from them became the foundation of H.B. 88, the Coleman-Baker Act. State Representative Houston Gaines and State Senator Randy Robertson agreed to sponsor the legislation, which the organization I work for, Eternal Vigilance Action, gave each an award for their work on that bill.

In addition to creating the framework for families to be able to request cold cases be reviewed, Chairmen Matt Hatchett and Blake Tillery worked hard to find the funds needed in the state budget to create a new cold case unit within the GBI. Governor Kemp signed the bill into law in May of 2023 and that cold case unit started work the following July.

What I have been able to glean so far is that Faust has been tied to the murder by a DNA sample that would have been unusable with the technology available in 2001. But the Coleman-Baker Act requires that law enforcement reinvestigate a case entirely, with new investigators, if a case review shows that the evidence would benefit from the use of newer technology or investigative methods. Whenever an old DNA sample is involved, new technology is able to determine so much more than we have ever been able to before.

During the press conference announcing the introduction of the bill, Virginia Baker, Tara’s mother, shared a sentiment that has stuck with me everyday since. She talked about how she did not want to live after Tara’s death. That the pain was too much for her to bear. She spoke about how she cried out to God, “why must I live as a grieving parent?” And she received her answer; “God is a grieving parent too.”

Now that an arrest has been made, certain details of Tara’s death have been a devastating revelation for her family. When Cameron and I spoke yesterday he told me how conflicted the Baker Family is feeling with knowing that the suspect in Tara’s case was in custody with the weight of learning those details. We know they are grounded in their faith and continue to pray for their comfort.

For me, I have been feeling all kinds of things. But in my morning reflection and quiet time what hit me was that so many people still cared enough about justice to seek it out for Tara over two decades since her murder. So many people were cogs in a much larger machine and I am proud that I was one of them, but I was just one cog. So that pride is outweighed by gratitude for all of the people who helped make this happen. A single cog cannot move anything.

I was also reminded of a conversation with my old friend, Representative Jay Powell, who liked me even though many of his friends probably did not. Jay was always trying to find ways to help me pass bills when I found myself in Speaker Ralston’s doghouse. He saw the ideas I was bringing and knew that they needed to be dealt with and it would not be right to shelve them just because I was on the outs with the Speaker.

After he had intervened on my behalf for the fifth or sixth time he exasperatedly asked, “Where do you get the ideas for your bills?”

“I just listen to people,” I replied.

And that is also how the Coleman-Baker Act came to be. I just listened to people and their stories and then I asked how could I help? How can I be a cog in this machine?

And now the wheels of justice are churning. Families in Georgia who have lived with burden of a question mark for so long have hope. And for those who have taken innocent lives, don’t sleep. Justice is coming.

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