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February 2, 2012

New Albany man arrested for wife’s 1990 murder

Informant claims husband recently confessed at a party

NEW ALBANY — More than two decades after a New Albany woman’s body was discovered in the Ohio River, her husband has been charged with murder.

Christopher A. Baxter, 54, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his apartment in the 1600 block of Slate Run Road.

The New Albany Police Department received a call June 23, 1990, about a body found in the Ohio River across from Shawnee Park in Louisville, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed Thursday morning in Floyd County Superior Court No. 3. The victim was identified as 32-year-old Robin Lynn Baxter.

Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson said the victim died from several blows to the head. Her husband was considered a person of interest early in the investigation, but there was not enough information to charge him until an informant came forward with new information this week.

The couple lived in the 1800 block of Troy Street a short distance from the Ohio River.

Detective Perry Parsons interviewed Chris Baxter shortly after his wife was found. Baxter said he last saw his wife June 19, 1990. He admitted they had been in an argument that led to him breaking the Plexiglas out of the back door of the residence, according to court records.

Baxter said he went to bed and then woke up about 3 or 4 a.m. and walked down the street looking for his wife.

Friends of the couple described to police a volatile relationship. Chris Baxter was described as being controlling and sometimes violent with his wife.

Shortly after the murder, detectives interviewed two men who lived on Chambers Street. They said the Baxters had been to their house at about 6:30 or 7 p.m. June 19, 1990, and Chris Baxter had used several derogatory words to describe his wife.

Chris Baxter left the house and called a short time later asking for his wife. According to court records, Robin Baxter said she was afraid and did not want to go home. A friend offered for her to stay wit him, but she said she had to go home.

She left that night walking home and was not seen by her friends again.

In a second police interview June 25, 1990, Baxter said he could not remember if he did anything to his wife because he “blacked out.” He reportedly said he would want them to give him the electric chair if he had killed her.

The victim’s mother went to police in October 1990 with a photo she found of the Baxters with a lead pipe in the background. She said Chris Baxter told people it was his self-defense weapon.

Detectives went back to the house. The new occupant recognized the pipe. He said he accidentally punctured the drywall while moving furniture and found the lead pipe, a glove and tissue paper inside the wall. After obtaining this new information, police exhumed the body in November 1990 to determine if the pipe could have been the murder weapon.

The case went cold until just a few days ago when NAPD learned of an informant in a nearby jail who claimed Baxter confessed to the murder.

The informant said their friends had frequently discussed their thoughts that Baxter killed his wife. The two were drinking at a party one night in the Portland neighborhood of Louisville when the informant asked Baxter directly if he killed her. He allegedly said yes. The informant said he asked him again the next day while they were sober and Baxter again admitted killing his wife, according to court records.

Detectives then began re-interviewing friends of the Baxters.

According to court records, one couple said Baxter showed up intoxicated at their house in the fall of 1991.

Baxter allegedly said, “You’ll never know the power you feel when you take someone’s life ’til you do it.” The boyfriend of the victim’s best friend said, “You killed her, didn’t you?”

The two became involved in a fight. The boyfriend later told police he thought Baxter was going to kill him until he grabbed a glass bottle and hit him in the head leaving a permanent scar.

The man also remembered helping Baxter repair a hole in the wall shortly after her disappearance.

Henderson said murder investigations sometimes require patience. He praised Parsons for continuing to work on the case.

“I think it’s very important we never forget any case,” Henderson said.

Becky Decker, a close friend and maid of honor at the Baxters’ wedding, said the victim’s mother and sister have died. She worried the case would be forgotten but is grateful charges have been filed.

“I’m just very thankful there will be some closure,” she said.

Baxter is expected to appear in court Friday for an initial hearing. He faces 45 to 65 years in prison if convicted.

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