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Springfield murder resonates almost 30 years later

Friday, April 22, 2011 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:18 a.m. CDT, Friday, April 22, 2011

*CORRECTION: Ricky Baskin died after a car crash on Oct. 11, 1995. An earlier version of this article had the incorrect year of Baskin's death.

SPRINGFIELD — They called her "Miss Linda" in the small Texas town of Carthage.

She played the piano and taught Sunday school at a small Baptist church. She arranged flowers at a local floral shop.

Then "Angie" was stabbed.

Miss Linda's only daughter Angela "Angie" Baskin, 22, bled to death outside a hotel 500 miles away. It was July 29, 1982.

Linda's grief led her to Springfield, where it turned into frustration and depression. Angela had been murdered along Glenstone Avenue, and Linda had no one to blame.

Linda pressed prosecutors and police for action. She pleaded with private attorneys and political aides. A Springfield detective said he had never seen anyone so overcome with grief.

Her pastor, Charles French added: "She was devastated by it. She didn't have much contact with anyone."

It was about 2 a.m. when Linda got the call.

"She just broke down," said J.W. Holt, Linda's husband and Angela's stepfather. "They said they picked Angela up at a motel. She'd been stabbed.

"They said they had her heart out, trying to sew the bottom of it back on."

They called back 30 minutes later. Angela was dead. Those in attendance in August of 1982 said the funeral in Carthage was packed with people.

"I've known Angela since little kids," family friend Carolyn Denby said. "She was beautiful, like, Miss America beautiful."

Denby said Angela was fun and outgoing; perhaps more than her mother would have liked.

"Angela wasn't perfect by any means, and that's what her mom wanted," she said. "She just wasn't the perfect little girl."

During the visitation, Linda never left her daughter's coffin, Denby said.

Holt said Linda was inconsolable.

"She went to pieces," he said.

Obsessed with finding her daughter's killer, Linda started a descent into depression, he said.

She made the seven-hour drive to Springfield several times, demanding details of her daughter's death.

"She just wanted information so badly," said Rob Underwood, a family friend and attorney who Linda went to for advice. "She was very, very distressed," he said.

Linda asked the former prosecutor to do some digging. He started with a call to the Springfield Police Department.

"They were basically at a dead end," he said. "All they had were the bare facts."

With a suspect but insufficient evidence, police seemed frustrated as well.

"Any time a family loses someone, it's hard to take, but Linda took it harder than anybody I'd ever seen," Springfield Detective Sgt. Walt Ayres told a News-Leader reporter in 1985. "We held nothing back from her. We told her absolutely everything we knew."

Underwood said Linda considered hiring a private detective. The family put an ad in the News-Leader offering $1,000 reward for information.

Linda made another trip to Springfield. The months turned to years.

"It was one of these things, she couldn't put an end to it," Underwood said. "We always use this word 'closure,' and I guess it has some significant meaning. It did for Linda."

The small community grieved with Linda when Angela was killed.

On April 15, 1985, Linda Holt drove to a rural Carthage cemetery. She walked to her daughter's grave, sat down and shot herself in the head. Two days later, she was buried next to Angela.

And it was French who found Miss Linda's body.

Within a decade, Angela's son would also join his mother and grandmother at their final resting place.

With Linda laid to rest, Angela's son, Ricky Baskin, had lost another caretaker.

Only 17, he died after a crash on Oct. 11, 1995*, on what would have been Angela's birthday, in what some in Carthage believe was the second suicide linked to Angela's murder.

In their view, one tragedy led to the next and then the next.

"That man killed three people that day" in 1982, said Denby, who has lived her life in Carthage.

His mother already taken by a killer in Springfield and his grandmother now also deceased, Ricky stayed with Holt. He played summer league baseball with Underwood's son.

"It obviously affected him," Underwood said. "I guess that's why he chose that path."

Carthage Police Chief Duane Baushke remembers Angela's murder, Linda's suicide and Ricky.

"For the family, there was a lot of suffering going on."

Records of Ricky's crash more than 15 years ago were not available, but Chief Baushke remembers questions raised in 1995.

Ricky, turning from a dirt road, drove his pickup into the path of tractor-trailer. The crash killed both drivers. The newspaper said the sound of the impact traveled half a mile.

"Did he pull out on purpose? We just don't know," Baushke said.

Baushke said he recalled a report that Ricky was having problems with his girlfriend, but without a note, he couldn't say for sure.

Some say, with this family's tragic history, it was just the next domino to fall.

"It's just not coincidental that his death happened on the same day," Underwood said.

"If you could see the highway he went on, he drove way over into the path of the 18-wheeler."

Denby is convinced, too.

"Ricky had nobody," Carolyn said. "What are the chances of that happening on that date? I think that tells it all."

Those closest to Ricky disagree.

Angela's father, Leon Choate, who still runs a barber shop on the Carthage city square called the death an accident. He declined further comment.

Holt, Ricky's stepgrandfather, said the young driver just drifted over into the wrong lane.

"I heard it was suicide, but I don't think so," Holt said.

The pall still hangs over the town of 6,600, where many make their living in the oil and gas business.

Today, a former truck driver sits in a Greene County Jail. Springfield Police say that on Dec. 15 — after staying silent for 28 years — he admitted to the murder of Angela Baskin.

Like others, Holt wished someone would have accepted blame for Angela's death a long time ago.

"It would have been a whole lot different," said Holt, now 77. "I wouldn't have had to sit here at home and wonder if they were gonna catch the guy.

"It'll work on you," Holt said, blaming the stress for a stroke five years ago. "It worked on Linda in the worst way."

It worked on Ricky, too, he said.

"The failure for at least an ending to the investigation had to be a triggering point for all of this," Underwood said. "Having somewhat of an answer to something is a whole lot better than being in the unknown.

"You at least have an ending," he said.


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miss nobody February 9, 2012 | 8:47 p.m.
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