Prominent Philly Couples Therapist Found Dead In Hotel Room After Hiring Homeless Male Prostitute

| by Zara Zhi
Dr. Howard Baker.Dr. Howard Baker.

The suspect in a murder-by-strangling of a prominent psychiatrist during an encounter with a male escort has been identified. 

Manuel Baez repeatedly violated his probation and has been charged with killing 74-year-old Howard Baker who was asphyxiated with a belt in a hotel room while paying for sex, reports Daily Mail. He was killed on Dec. 20.

Baez, 27, was seen leaving the Rodeway Inn in downtown Philadelphia with Baker’s wallet and backpack.

On Dec. 22, Baez was detained and charged with criminal homicide and robbery. Baker's naked body was found draped under a sheet on the floor of his hotel room on Dec. 21.

Baker had reportedly told his wife on the night of his murder that he would be watching a Philadelphia Eagles game at a bar.

Court documents note that Baez has been arrested dozens of times, according to Daily Mail. Since adulthood, Baez has faced more than 70 charges, including assault, drug possession, robbery and making terrorist threats, but has only been imprisoned a few times.

In March, Baez was sentenced to three years of probation after confessing to felony theft at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Two weeks later, Baez was arrested in Philadelphia on suspicion of robbery, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. The case fell apart when a witness failed to appear in court.

Baez was arrested later for disorderly conduct and then four more times on numerous drugs charges between June and August in nearby Lehigh County. Baez was eventually taken into custody for 57 days before he appeared before a Lehigh County court on Nov. 11 and admitted possessing a controlled substance and evidence tampering.

Judge Robert L. Steinberg gave him up to 23 months but court documents note Baez was released immediately on parole because of time served.

Court documents reveal that Baez had no address listed, except for his hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Investigators believe Baez was homeless and prostituting himself when the two men met, reports Daily Mail.

Baez was the second of two prostitutes Baker is said to have paid for sex that night. The first prostitute remains anonymous and police do not consider him a suspect, reports Philadelphia Inquirer.

Baker's body was not discovered until late the next morning when a housekeeper went into Baker’s room found his naked corpse with a belt tied around his neck.

Police found sex toys in the hotel room and initially thought it was a case of solo auto-asphyxiation gone wrong.

A postmortem analysis found the cause of death was strangulation and Baez was subsequently arrested after being identified in a surveillance video.

“He gave a full confession," Homicide Capt. James Clark told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “During whatever was going on inside of the room, he made the decision that he was going to kill and rob him. And that's what he did.”

Baez has a preliminary hearing on Jan. 6 and has been denied bail.

Clark said there were no wounds on Baker’s body or signs of struggle in the room.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, authorities are uncertain if Baker had previously stayed at the Rodeway Inn.

“We don't really know what his routine is. We talked to [his] wife, and she didn't know that he was even there," Clark said. "So we're trying to sort of backtrack through his lifestyle."

Baker’s website said he identified "relationship problems, AD/HD and spiritual difficulties" as his areas of expertise, in addition to addiction, alcoholism, depression, anxiety and loss and grief.

Sources: Daily Mail, Philadelphia Inquirer (2) / Photo credit: Philadelphia Inquirer