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Former Ashland pastor faces sex-abuse charges

A former Ashland youth pastor is facing felony sex-abuse charges for alleged contact over at least five years with a young girl he knew through his church, and a church leader said the youth pastor has confessed his crimes.

Kenneth Leo Baker, 44, of Ashland, faces four felony and two misdemeanor sex charges for alleged incidents involving a single victim between 2006 and 2011. At least four of the incidents allegedly occurred when the girl was younger than 14 years old, court records show.

Jackson County sheriff's Capt. Nathan Sickler said Baker made contact with the victim through First Baptist Church of Ashland, where records show Baker was a youth pastor.

"They were introduced through the church," Sickler said.

Pastor Don Baldrica told the Mail Tribune that on Oct. 25, Baker "revealed what he had done" to him and other church leaders. Baldrica said he immediately notified the sheriff's department and the state Department of Human Services that Baker confessed to illegal sexual contact with a minor.

The church board then met the following evening and terminated Baker, Baldrica said. 

An October post on the church's website showed Baker was a pastor there since 1997, when he left a job at the Medford airport. The website no longer mentioned Baker on any page Monday.

Baker was arraigned Friday on three counts of first-degree sexual abuse, one count of second-degree unlawful sexual penetration, which are both felonies that each carry mandatory minimum sentences of more than six years in state prison upon conviction. He was also arraigned on two misdemeanor counts of third-degree sexual abuse.

During Baker's Friday arraignment, Jackson County Circuit Judge Patricia Crain set Baker's bail at $500,000 and returned him to the Jackson County Jail, where he has been held since his Thursday arrest.

Baker is due back in court Friday. 

Court documents state that, while the alleged sexual contacts date back to 2006, they initially went unreported.

Sickler said sheriff's deputies were notified of the alleged abuse about six weeks ago through a DHS report, which triggered the investigation.

To date, investigators know of no other alleged victims involving Baker, Sickler said. Sickler asked anyone with information about the case to call sheriff's Detective David Seese at 541-774-8304.

Sickler declined to reveal the age of the alleged victim or where she lives so as not to identify her.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Kenneth Baker