On June 22, 1990, 21-year-old UCLA astrophysics student Ronald Steven Baker was found murdered in a railroad tunnel in Chatsworth Park, Los Angeles. Baker was known to authorities only as “John Doe 135” at the beginning of the investigation because he was found with no ID; however, police explored whether he was killed as a part of an occult ritual because he was wearing a pentagram and a type of medallion.
When the victim was identified as Baker, police discovered he was a part of UCLA group “Mystics Circle,” the Daily Bruin reported. Baker, who dabbled in the occult, went to the tunnel often and meditated there and the railroad tunnel itself was believed to be a scene of occasional animal sacrifices, the LA Times reported. Baker’s body was also discovered on June 22, the day after the summer solstice.
In 1993, Baker’s roommate Duncan Martinez came forward with an attorney and told authorities the slaying wasn’t related to the occult but confessed to orchestrating Baker’s murder with their other roommate, Nathaniel Blalock. The plan was initially to kidnap Baker and extort money from his parents but Martinez said Blalock soon decided to kill Baker as well, the LA Times reported at the time.
Baker Was Known to Meditate in the Tunnel & Authorities First Investigated Whether the Murder Was Part of an Occult Ritual
Baker’s parents, who were involved in the Methodist church, said they knew their son had visited the tunnel before but weren’t aware that he was involved in occult activities, the LA Times wrote. His father, Gaylon Baker, told the outlet, “He and his friends had gone into that tunnel before. He was inquisitive and he was always exploring,” he said, explaining that Baker was curious about other religions.
The LA Times also reported that Baker had joined the Mystic Circle and the group studied Wicca, which became the main focus of the police investigation into his death. At the time, it wrote that Detective Frank Garcia said, “We don’t know if it is an occult-related crime. We are looking at that very hard.” He said Baker “was exploring avenues of magic and meditation, metaphysical stuff… We don’t know if at some point he graduated from the light to the dark side of that.”
However, as the outlet pointed out, those who follow Wicca do not believe in bloodletting and it is often described as benevolent witchcraft. Detectives also found that Baker’s parents received anonymous calls asking for a ransom for Baker’s safe return which Garcia said seemed like “a ruse by the murderer,” the Times shared.
After Baker’s Roommate Came Forward, Authorities Confirmed That the Motive Was Not Related to the Occult
After Blalock was charged with Baker’s murder and pleaded not guilty, Los Angeles Police Detective Rick Jackson confirmed to the LA Times that authorities confirmed there was no occult motive in his death. “This is not in any way a cult-related sacrifice or anything like that,” Jackson told the outlet. “We explored that angle and we’ve also been looking at the roommate’s possible involvement for a long time.”
Once authorities confirmed that his death was not part of an occult ritual, Baker’s mother Katherine Baker said, “We’re pleased that this thing is finally coming to a conclusion. It’s been a long time. And we’re definitely relieved that it’s not cult-related,” the Times wrote.