Charges dropped against Baca, to speed his return to prison: Baca and Detroit Lakes: What a long, strange trip it's been
It would be almost comical if it weren't so tragic for all involved: Since 2008, Level 3 sex offender Robert Thomas Baca has bounced around a half dozen times between prison and supervised release in Detroit Lakes. He made it to California once, Montana once, Pelican Rapids once, and most recently to the Brandy Lake area.
Now he is heading back to prison again, after his latest abortive attempt to flee the area.
Baca, 51, cut off his GPS ankle monitor and attempted to flee Detroit Lakes at approximately 4:30 p.m. April 7, effectively breaking his terms of release from prison.
When his bracelet was cut, an alarm was triggered, and officers responded immediately, having planned for just such an attempt.
A Detroit Lakes police sergeant found him roughly 30 minutes later at the northern city limits near Brandy Lake, after a tip from workers at Hough Inc. who had just seen Baca walking in the area.
He was arrested without incident and taken to the maximum security Becker County Jail.
He was charged in Becker County District Court with felony escape from custody and felony violating the state's predatory offender law.
But both those charges have been dropped, at least for now, at the request of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
"In order to make him available to go immediately back to prison, he can't have a criminal matter pending," said Assistant Becker County Attorney Kevin Miller. "That doesn't mean charges won't be filed later."
Baca will now serve the remaining one-third of his prison sentence, time that he would have served on intensive supervised release if he had continued to follow the rules in Detroit Lakes, Miller said. The county can file new charges at any time once he is back in prison completing his sentence.
Baca's unfortunate connection to Detroit Lakes started in 1996, when he was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct after raping a woman in Detroit Lakes and threatening to kill her if she went to the police. He was living in a former boarding house on the 200 block of West Frazee Street in Detroit Lakes and talked his way inside the woman's apartment by asking to use the phone. Baca pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1997 and served 11 years in state prison, his full prison term.
When his sentence was up, he came back to Detroit Lakes. It's not clear what his ties to the area are: His family of origin lives out of state.
Baca was the subject of a community notification meeting in Detroit Lakes Nov. 17, but he didn't stay in town long.
He left Detroit Lakes for St. Paul on Nov. 19. Detroit Lakes police watched him board a bus and leave, but he never checked in with St. Paul police as required.
He failed to check in with any police department, and on Dec. 12 he was charged in Becker County District Court with failing to register, a felony.
He was supposed to check in with police weekly wherever he was living.
A warrant was issued in Becker County and in January he was arrested without incident in California by the U.S. Marshal's Service, which had been actively seeking him.
He was sentenced July 23 in Becker County District Court for felony violation of the predatory offender registration law.
District Judge Lisa Borgen sentenced him to 26 months in prison, with credit for 196 days served in jail.
After serving his time, he came back to Detroit Lakes.
Baca cut off his GPS bracelet and fled again in June of 2010.
The tamper alarm on the tracking unit was activated, sparking a three-hour search before police eventually found Baca in Pelican Rapids..
Sentencing guidelines suggest he ought to serve between 34 and 46 months in prison for that offense, Becker County Attorney Michael Fritz said at the time.
When his sentence was two-thirds served, he moved back to Detroit Lakes in August of 2013 to serve the final third on intensive supervised probation.
He fled the area again on June 7, 2014. That time, it was two days before anyone noticed he had left town. He was arrested four days later in Billings, Mont., by the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Department.
He went right back to prison in Minnesota following his capture. He received a 24-month prison term for that episode.
When his sentence was two-thirds done, he was again released on intensive supervised probation for the remaining third of his sentence. He again chose to move to Detroit Lakes, and was released on April 5 to a state-owned halfway house on the 300 block of Summit Avenue. Two days later he absconded again and was caught in the Brandy Lake area.