Suspect in deadly high-speed chase now behind bars, charged with murder

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Jim Carr By Jim Carr

PHOENIX --The woman who led Department of Public Safety officers on a high-speed chase that ended in the death of one of those officers last week is now behind bars.

Georgia Baker was booked into Fourth Avenue Jail Sunday night.

She faces a variety of felony charges in connection with last week's chase, including murder in the first degree, aggravated assault, probation violation. unlawful flight, and endangerment.

The murder charge stems from the death of Officer Chris Marano, who was hit and killed by a DPS patrol vehicle while he was trying to put out stop sticks to disable Baker's allegedly stolen SUV. Baker reportedly veered in Marano's direction and when he leaped out of the way, he jumped into the path of the pursuing DPS cruiser.

Even though Baker did not deliberately kill Marano, a unique Arizona law allowed her to be charged in connection with his death. That law specifically permits murder charges against a person who runs from law enforcement officers if somebody died in the course of that pursuit.

Baker, 43, had nothing to say as she was led into the jail Sunday night after being released from the hospital. She was bitten by a police dog while trying to evade officers after Thursday night's chase.

A public visitation for Marano has been scheduled for Tuesday night at Shadow Mountain Mortuary in North Phoenix. The funeral is Wednesday morning at Christ Church of the Valley in Peoria.

Details emerge in death of DPS officer killed during high-speed chase

PHOENIX – Chris Marano, an Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer died Thursday night after being struck by another officer while trying to end a high-speed chase.

DPS spokesman Steve Harrison says the chase, which reached speeds of 100 mph, began at about 9:30 p.m. on Loop 101 near 56th Street in Phoenix, where a vehicle with a stolen license plate was spotted. It's not yet clear if the vehicle itself was stolen.

Harrison says as an officer pursued the suspect west on the 101, another officer -- Christopher Marano -- laid down spike strips near the Seventh Street overpass.

That pursuing DPS vehicle struck Marano, a husband and father of four, in the roadway. Early on, it was not known if the suspect's vehicle threw Marano into the path of that DPS vehicle or if Marano jumped out of the way to avoid being hit by the suspect, now identified as Georgia Lynn Baker of Phoenix.

"We do have witnesses who observed the collision, who said the suspect vehicle actually swerved into the shoulder towards our officer," Harrison said. He later said in a news conference that investigators do not believe that the suspect vehicle actually collided Marano.

"There was a collision between our patrol car and her vehicle," Harrison said. "But we do not believe there was an impact between her vehicle and our officer."

Marano, who was good friends with the officer who hit him, was rushed to John C. Lincoln Hospital, where he was pronounced dead and 10:09 p.m. DPS is not not releasing any information about the officer who hit Marano.

Harrison said incidents like this are not common in Arizona.

"We're pretty fortunate that it doesn't happened very often," Harrison said. "But that's one reason why we try to use stop sticks and other pursuit management tools, so we don't have to put ourselves or the public in risky situations."

Harrison said the chase continued and Baker eventually fled on foot. With the help of citizens, she was found hiding on the balcony of a condo near Fifth Avenue in west Phoenix. A Phoenix Police Department K-9 unit was sent in when Baker refused to surrender to officers. She reportedly was bitten by that dog.

Baker, 43, was taken into custody, but at this point, investigators still do not know why she ran in the first place.

Harrison say the officer in the car that hit Marano suffered a broken hand and was receiving treatment. Both that officer and Baker reportedly are at John C. Lincoln Hospital.

Marano, 28, is from Surprise and had been with DPS for more than three years. He leaves behind a wife and four children, the youngest of whom is just 4 months old. The oldest is 7; the other two are both 5.

"The family is devastated, to say the least," Harrison said. "How do you tell a 4-month-old or a 5-year-old their dad's not going to be home for Christmas ever again?"

Investigators believe Baker was impaired by drugs at the time of the chase and subsequent wreck.

"Clearly, she facilitated this event," Harrison said. "All she had to do was stop, pull over to the shoulder, and there would never have been a pursuit or this tragic collision that resulted in the death of Officer Marano."

Police say Baker has done time in jail and was still on probation when she led officers on the chase.

Baker is being charged with murder under a unique Arizona law allowing charges to be brought against someone who runs from police if somebody dies in the course of that pursuit.

"We are trying to help officers deal with this tragedy as best they can," Harrison said.

Before joining DPS, Marano spent five years in active service as a Military Police Officer with the Navy. He continued with the Navy Reserve for another three years after that.

The 100 Club of Arizona will be providing assistance to the family and have been, and will continue to be, in contact with the department to address their additional needs as we go forward.

Twenty-seven Arizona Highway Patrol/Department of Public Safety Officers have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The last fallen officer was paramedic Bruce W. Harrolle, 36,  who was killed while assisting with a search and rescue mission of two stranded hikers in October 2008. Officer Harrolle was struck by the helicopter's rotor blades and fatally injured.