Cynthia Baker sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 8-year-old Rica Rountree

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — The woman who was found guilty of killing 8-year-old Rica Rountree has been sentenced to natural life in prison.

Cynthia Baker, 42, was found guilty last November of first-degree murder. She was originally to be sentenced last January, but that was vacated when Baker hired a new lawyer, Phil Finegan.

Baker claimed ineffective assistance of counsel from her former lawyer, Todd Ringel, and wanted a new trial.

That is what Finegan tried to argue in court today.

Finegan claimed Ringel not addressing Rica’s father, Richard, as a possible contributor to the abuse and death, along with Ringel leaving the DCFS out of his defense, hurt Bakers case.

On the other side, the State felt the evidence presented in the trial was sufficient enough to prove Baker’s guilt, adding Baker willingly chose Ringel to represent her and made no claims during the trial about how she felt.

It also claimed Ringel’s efforts did not fall below the objective standard or reasonable doubt, which is necessary to receive a new trial

After hearing arguments from both the state and defense, McLean County Judge Casey Costigan came to the decision of natural life in prison, meaning there is no possibility of parole or release.

“I have yet to see a case where the evidence was as distressing to me as this one is,” said Costigan, adding that Baker’s actions were not proper forms of discipline and were evil in nature. “Nothing that child did or could’ve done warranted the type of abuse that was inflicted upon her.

Before being sentenced, Baker was given the chance to make a statement where she claimed that she is naturally a good person and loved Rica.

Rica’s mom, Ann Simmon,s didn’t agree and said she is just relieved this case has come to an end.

“I was very shocked that she came in with even more emotions and it just goes to show that she don’t have no remorse and a natural life sentence will at least keep the next kid safe,” said Simmons. “I think it’s time for it to be over. I was ready for it to be done with. I’m very happy that they went with natural life. I’m very happy that he denied all the motions today.”

Baker also faces three counts of domestic battery, one count of endangering the life of a child, and one count of aggravated battery.

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