Friends and family members of Willard D. "Willy" Baker II filled McClure-Schafer-Lankford Funeral Home in Marietta on Tuesday as they came to say goodbye to the 35-year-old man who was gunned down in his home last Thursday.
Most of those in attendance wore camouflage clothing as a tribute to the man. Also, several vehicles, including the lead truck in the funeral procession, flew Rebel flags.
The man's aunt, Bev Britton, of Marietta, said there was little talk on Tuesday about what happened to Willy, but plenty of discussion about the man's life and how he would be missed.
BRAD BAUER The Marietta Times
Mourners gather outside the McClure-Schafer-Lankford Funeral Home in Marietta Tuesday for the funeral of Willard D. “Willy” Baker II. Many attending dressed in camouflage clothing in honor of the outdoorsman.
"He was just a good ol' redneck country boy and today was about his life," Britton said after the service. "A lot of his friends came up and talked about all the things Willy had done for them in his lifetime. ... He was always available, day or night."
Britton said Baker loved to hunt, fish, camp and spend time with his 2-year-old son, Hunter. Baker had worked as a laborer at Ohio Valley Alloy Services in Marietta.
According to police, Baker was shot and killed at his Caywood Road home Thursday morning by the ex-boyfriend of a woman he recently began dating and who had spent the night at his home.
A preliminary hearing for murder suspect Steven M. Leonhart, 35, of Whipple, is set for 3:30 p.m. today in Marietta Municipal Court.
If the case is bound over to Washington County Common Pleas Court, the case will likely be presented to a grand jury for possible indictment next week.
In addition to the murder, the suspect, Steven M. Leonhart, 35, of Whipple, is accused of breaking into Baker's home and assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Holly Fickiesen, 40, of Marietta, and a neighboring resident after Fickiesen had fled there.
Prosecutors have said the case could qualify for the death penalty but no decision on that had been made as of Tuesday.
Leonhart remains in the Washington County Jail on $1.4 million bond. A preliminary hearing on the case is set for 3:30 p.m. today in Marietta Municipal Court.
Britton said more than 250 people attended a viewing held for Baker on Monday evening. She estimated 350 people attended the service on Tuesday morning.
The funeral procession stretched for more than a half mile while en route to East Lawn Memorial Park in Reno, where Baker was laid to rest.
Melissa Vandale, 30, of Marietta, said she met Baker about 12 years ago.
"Willy was just a fun, easy-going, laid back guy who never knew an enemy and who didn't deserve this," she said.
Vandale said she liked seeing so many people wearing camouflage on Tuesday.
"He didn't go anywhere without wearing at least some camo, so that's why so many are wearing camo today. ... It's just who he was," she said.
Other members of Baker's family declined to comment.
Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Alison Cauthorn said the case against Leonhart could be presented to a grand jury as early as next week.
"We're still getting reports and follow-up work is still being conducted," Cauthorn said.
Still, Cauthorn indicated at an arraignment there was both a written and audio recorded confession in the case.
Officers indicated on Thursday they found an apparent suicide note at Leonhart's home that referenced the shooting. The man was taken into custody at his home around 9 a.m. Thursday. He remains on suicide watch at the jail and has made at least one attempt on his life, officers said.
Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said officers aren't solely relying on the alleged confessions. He said they are continuing to piece the case together.
Mincks said one question that remains to be answered is why Baker returned to his home. Officers have said they believe he was shot after he left for work, which family members said was usually around 6 a.m, and then came back home, where Fickiesen was allegedly being assaulted. Officers believe Baker was shot around 6:38 a.m.
"Right now, I don't know why he returned," Mincks said. "I have (an officer) reviewing all of the cell phone records and call logs and trying to piece everything together."
The neighbor who was assaulted, Michael Lisk, 55, of 245 Caywood Road, Marietta, sustained a broken hip while struggling with Leonhart for control of a gun, Mincks said.
The man underwent surgery to repair the joint last week but his condition was not known on Tuesday. A call to his home on Tuesday went unanswered.