A 24-year-old Tacoma man pleaded not guilty Thursday to beating his uncle to death with a hammer as he sat in his favorite recliner.
Pierce County prosecutors amended the charges against Matthew Baker from first-degree assault to one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder after the victim, Charles Escarcega, was taken off life support Monday.
The attack happened Dec. 1 at the familys home in the 3500 block of South Madison Street.
Charging papers give this account:
Baker, who lately had been acting erratically, recently moved with his mother into the house where Escarcega and his mother lived.
On the day of the attack, Bakers strange behavior prompted his family to call representatives from Good Samaritan Hospital to come talk to him. He refused to cooperate and locked himself in a room. That night, Bakers mother asked him to shut down his computer and went to bed. The electricity went out shortly afterward and she went downstairs after hearing a door slam. After tripping over a hammer in the kitchen, she grabbed a flashlight and went looking for her son.
She found Escarcega bleeding and unresponsive in his recliner. He suffered skull fractures and bleeding in the brain.
Officers called to the scene discovered fuses had been removed from the houses power box. Baker was found walking on Union Avenue. He told police his uncle had tried to break into his room to attack him.
A Facebook post written by Baker about how he feared uncle was going to kill him was discovered later.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653