Judge decides to let jury weigh opposing accounts in Joplin assault case

Montez Baker

A Jasper County judge heard two decidedly different accounts Thursday of what happened the night a Joplin man is accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend by pinning her arm in the window of a car and dragging her across a parking lot. He chose to let a jury decide the case.

The ex-girlfriend, Idalis K. Ford, 23, testified at a preliminary hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court that Montez S. Baker, 30, caused serious injury to her Oct. 4 in a parking lot outside her apartment on West 25th Street. But Baker's friend, Stan Luke, who was with him that night, told the court that Ford was the "instigator" and denied that Baker rolled the window of the vehicle up on her arm and dragged her across the lot.

Assistant Prosecutor Taylor Haas called Ford as his lone witness at Baker's hearing on charges of first-degree domestic assault and armed criminal action.

She told the court that she went to Club XO in downtown Joplin and ended up catching a ride home from Baker and his friend. During the ride, the estranged couple resumed an argument they had been having about a vehicle of hers that he purportedly had wrecked and refused to make right with her, she said.

As they arrived near her residence, she got out and was walking around the front of the car when Baker pulled forward and she had to jump on the hood to avoid being run down. She said she had to hold on to the hood as the car shot through the parking lot to where she lived.

She testified that she got off the hood and reached in the driver's window to get her phone and keys and Baker rolled the window up, trapping her arm and then took off in the car. She said she was dragged across the lot until she managed to pull her arm free and fell to the pavement. She indicated that several people saw this happen.

"The neighbors said I hit my head on the ground." Ford said. "I don't remember that."

She was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries, including a swollen ankle, she told the court.

Defense attorney Marshall Miller asked Ford if she had called Baker for a ride home from the club. She said he told her that she did, but she could not recall having made that call and acknowledged that she had been drinking at the club. Miller asked if she had kicked and hit Baker during their argument on the ride home from her perch in the middle of the back seat, and she denied anything other than having words with him.

"I did not assault him," she said. "I did not try to assault him. We had a verbal argument."

Wasn't she actually trying to hit him when she swung her arm inside the window? Miller asked. No, she was trying to get her phone and keys, Ford said.

Miller called Luke as a witness for the defense, and he told Associate Court Judge Joe Hensley that she had called Baker for a ride and that she wildly accused Baker of being interested in Luke's wife shortly after getting in the car with them. Their argument progressed from there and she began hitting Baker as he was driving, even to the point of bloodying his face, Luke testified.

Finally, when they reached the parking lot of her place, Baker got out and tried to pull her out of the car, Luke said. But she jumped on the hood and started screaming "rape," he said.

"She was definitely the instigator," Luke told the court.

He said Baker then proceeded to slowly drive the car forward through the lot with her on the hood. But people coming out of their homes to see what was happening mistook the situation, thinking she had been hit by the car, he said. When they came to a stop near her place, she got off the hood, came to the driver's window and tried to "hammer fist" Baker, Luke said.

The judge decided to leave the weighing of the facts and the deciding who was telling the truth to a jury and ordered Baker to stand trial on the charges with his initial appearance in a trial division of the court set on March 9.

Charges of her own

Idalis Ford has assault charges of her own pending in Jasper County Circuit Court. She is accused of assaulting Magen Johnston at Club XO on Aug. 16 in what a probable-cause affidavit states was an attempt at retribution for the Johnston's pursuit of charges in a burglary case. She also allegedly tried to run down Desirae Anaya with a vehicle and damaged other vehicles driving while intoxicated the same night, according to the affidavit.

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