Thursday, September 14, 2000

Earlier case has striking similarity

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The family of 6-year-old Michael Martin never heard the gunshot, but have been haunted by its echo ever since.

        The moment of the shooting, and the four years that followed, came flooding back to them Wednesday. This time, a 13-year-old Pleasant Ridge boy was fatally shot while he and a 9-year-old cousin were playing with a shotgun, Cincinnati police said.

        The cases are remarkably similar.

        On Thanksgiving Eve 1996, then-8-year-old Ricky Martin fatally shot his little brother, Michael, with an antique rifle. They had been playing. It was ruled an accident.

        “I don't know if you ever really come to terms, but I'm close” the Martin boys' mother, Stephanie Baker, said from her Hamilton home Wednesday. “You can learn and go one day at a time. Me and Ricky don't talk about it. It hurts him to approach me because he knows it upsets me. When he mentions his name, he's on the verge of tears.”

        Michael was Ricky's only sibling.

        The shooting led to a criminal investigation against Mrs. Baker. A Butler County grand jury declined to indict her on a weapons charge.

        The boys found the gun in an upstairs bedroom of a home from which they and their mother had moved shortly before the shooting. They had gone back that night to get a video game, found the gun, and Ricky picked it up.

        Michael was across the room when the gun went off. He was pronounced dead at Fort Hamilton Hughes Hospital.

        “We see on TV violence, kids killing kids,” said Ricky's stepfather, Jack Baker. “It's tragic.”

        Ricky went to counseling within a week of the shooting and continued for three years. The family assured Ricky it was an accident for which there was no blame.

        Just a heartbreaking moment in time.

        “I looked at it like, I could have lost two here,” Mrs. Baker said.

        It helped. Ricky is now an eighth-grade honor student active in football and wrestling. But it took years and many tears.

        “It never goes away,” Mr. Baker said. “Thirty minutes before it happened, we were playing Santa Claus games on the roof, looking down the chimney.”

Playing with gun leaves boy dead at 13
- Earlier case has striking similarity

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