In the midst of her heartache, Andrea Baker is clinging to her husband's words — the words he put on paper and the words he put into practice.
His voice weak from an August 2011 shooting, Kerry Baker told his wife in a near whisper to forgive the young men involved in the robbery that left Baker paralyzed from the neck down.
“Kerry would always tell me, 'You have to forgive them. They got what they got,' ” Andrea Baker said, her voice breaking. “I've forgiven them. But I'm mad at them. So mad at them. And Kerry never was.”
The anger multiplied last week when Baker, 42, died — a death that authorities believe may be related to complications of the shooting and paralysis.
Baker, an author and a barber whose story was featured in The World-Herald in September, had been confined to a bed in his north Omaha home since he was shot by gang member Josh Provencher during a botched robbery at the barbershop.
He had been scheduled to undergo surgery last Thursday as part of his months-long battle with pressure sores. However, the surgery was canceled because he was running a fever.
On Friday, Andrea Baker ran two of their children to school. She returned home and was giving her husband a drink when his eyes rolled back in his head and he passed out. She called 911. Paramedics arrived and took him to Immanuel Medical Center. He never regained consciousness, dying Friday evening.
Now Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine is mulling whether he can bring a murder charge against Provencher, who already was sentenced to 47 to 99 years in prison for Baker's shooting.
Under the current sentence, Provencher, 17 at the time of the shooting, will be eligible for parole in his early 40s. Absent parole, Provencher won't be eligible for release until his mid-60s.
An autopsy was performed. Though results are not yet available, authorities believe that Baker's death was a product of his condition.
Andrea Baker said her husband was often in a state of pain, despite his paralysis. He described aches and shooting pains and severe indigestion. He suffered from pressure sores — sores that required him to spend all his days on a specially equipped, sand-filled bed.
“He was miserable,” Andrea Baker said through her tears. “He was suffering.”
His father, Bill Anderson, put it this way: “Kerry had bad days. And he had a little bit better than bad days.”
Baker pressed on, however. With the help of Andrea, he recently finished editing and publishing his second book — “Wildfire” — the sequel to “Playboy Mack,” which was published before he was shot. The Bakers even designed the website, onekingdompublishing.com, for the two novels.
Kerry Baker wrote both books and four others while in prison years ago for drug dealing.
He drew on his former lifestyle as inspiration for the characters in his novels. However, he was determined to make sure his new life didn't imitate the plots of his books.
He married Andrea just nine months before the shooting.
On Aug. 3, 2011, he had just returned to Alisha's Beauty & Barber Shop when he found Provencher and another young man in the shop. Provencher acted as if he wanted a haircut. Baker dropped off some boxes in the back, where a few elderly women were getting their hair done.
When he returned to the front, Provencher shoved a gun in his face. His mind racing to the women in the back, Baker swung at Provencher, hitting him in the face. The teen fell but held onto the gun. When he came back toward Baker, Baker lowered his head to tackle him.
Provencher fired. The bullet shattered Baker's C5 vertebra.
Instantly, Andrea Baker became her husband's caretaker. She bathed him, fed him, scratched his itches, consoled him, comforted him and pushed him forward.
The couple kept a promise they had made before the shooting: the adoption of a 9-year-old girl, Justice. In December, a Douglas County judge came to the Bakers' home and formalized the adoption — in the Bakers' bedroom. Kerry Baker beamed.
“That was a good day,” Bill Anderson said. “I really can't say enough about Andrea. The things she had to sacrifice. I never heard her complain. She's just that type of person. She would always ask him, 'What do you need? What can I do?' And then you'd hear her say, 'I got it.' ”
Andrea said her husband often lamented that he had become a burden to her. She reassured him that he was not, that they would spend the rest of their days together, writing books and raising children and loving each other.
Two days before his death, Baker told Andrea he was “not long for this world.”
“He said, 'I hate to make you feel like this, but I just don't think I'm going to be around too much longer,' ” Andrea Baker said. “He made a list, made me promise him that I would get his books out. And I'm going to keep that promise.”
In a September interview, Baker talked about how much he loved telling stories — in print or at the barbershop. His once-husky voice was barely audible over the hum of his ventilated bed. But he wanted it made clear. He was moving forward. And he had forgiven Provencher.
“A long time ago,” he said. “I actually feel sorry for him. He took two lives: mine and his.”
Besides his wife and father, Kerry Baker is survived by his mother, Rose Timberlake Baker, nine siblings and nine children. Funeral services will be at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Greater Bethel Temple Church, 1502 N. 52nd St.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1275, firstname.lastname@example.org