Families of Santa Cruz officers haven't received donation

Two of Sgt. Butch Baker's children attended the public memorial service held a year later after the two Santa Cruz officers' deaths.
February 25, 2014 6:06:01 PM PST
Wednesday marks the deaths of two Santa Cruz police officers killed by a suspect in a case they were investigating. Thousands of dollars raised to help the families of Sgt. Loren "Butch" Baker and Det. Elizabeth Butler are still sitting in a bank account.

Tuesday evening there was a remembrance service held in front of Santa Cruz City Hall where many people who have gathered here were contributors to that fund for the Baker and Butler families. However, ABC7 News has learned that the money has not been distributed to the families because of the objections of one family member.

The outpouring of support for the families was immediate. Baker had three children and Butler had two. The community donated over $500,000 to Baker and Butler's families. Until the matter is resolved, not a penny can be distributed, not even to Butler's two small children. We've confirmed from two sources that one of Baker's daughters is disputing how the funds will be divided. ABC7 News was not able to reach Ashley Baker or her attorney.

Two of Baker's children attended the event, but his daughter, Ashley, did not.

"We're still obviously going through phases of grief. In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday," said Jill Baker, Baker's daughter.

"I miss my best friend. He was my hero and coming home and talking to him about work at the dinner table," said Adam Baker, Baker's son.

Lisa Brett contributed to the memorial fund.

"You see over and over again how it takes so long to figure out money, how much you have, who should get it, so I'm not surprised, but I'm sorry to hear it," said Lisa Brett, a memorial fund contributor.

Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark turned down an interviewing saying, "We are not interested in talking about the selfishness of Ashley Baker on the eve of the one-year anniversary."

Now there is talk of mediation to avoid litigation.

"When you give money you expect it... you worked hard for that money. You want it to do good for the people that need it. But it's just going to litigation, that's a waste, and I don't think people will feel like contributing more in the future," said Nicole Hough, a Santa Cruz resident.

The focus now is remembering the fallen officers. A memorial garden will be dedicated on Wednesday in front of police headquarters. A plaque will be unveiled.

Santa Cruz residents talk on this anniversary how the tragedy has changed the community, making them more open about supporting the police and realizing the risks they take for public safety.

Butler was fond of the breakfast buns at Kelly's French Bakery. Co-owner Mark Sanchez often saw her. He told us, "I think the appreciation towards the officers that maybe they didn't expect has really come forth in many different ways from the entire community."

For the officers' families, it has been a difficult year.

"Overall, the families are doing relatively well, considering everything they've gone through in this difficult year, going through all the holidays and just not having their loved ones there," said Santa Cruz Police Officers Association president Joe Hernandez.

The memorial garden dedication for outside the police department is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. Members of both fallen officers are expected to attend and two plaques will be dedicated to the fallen officers.

ABC7 News reporter Lisa Amin Gulezian contributed to this report.


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