SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s been over 20 years since Tara Louise Baker was found dead in her Athens apartment on the day before her 24th birthday.
According to an incident report provided by the Athens-Clarke County Fire Department, firefighters responded to the residence at 160 Fawn Drive around 11:20 a.m. on Jan. 19, 2001 where they found heavy smoke and flames coming from the rear corner of the apartment.
The front door appeared to be locked and dead-bolted, so they kicked in the front door and entered the apartment. While trying to locate the source of the fire, the crew noticed all four burners on an electric range were on high in the kitchen.
Firefighters also found that a bedroom door and the adjacent bathroom door were both locked. After kicking in both doors, they found heavy flames inside the bedroom in the back corner.
When the fire was almost out, they found Baker’s body laying on the floor of the bedroom.
Her white 1996 Dodge Neon was parked out front.
Subsequent investigation determined that the fire was intentionally set and the manner of death was ruled homicide. Baker had been beaten, stabbed, strangled and possibly sexually assaulted,.
Baker was a first-year law school student at the University of Georgia (UGA), about a month into her second semester.
She was reportedly last seen alive by a friend around 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 18 at the UGA Law School Library located at 225 Herty Drive. It was also reported that the same friend received a call at 9:46 p.m. from Baker, who was still at the library. Baker phoned to make sure her friend arrived home safely and said she planned to leave the library around 10 p.m.
Baker’s residence was approximately a 12 minute driving distance from the law school. The next morning is when firefighters were dispatched to Baker’s residence at 11:23 a.m. and arrived on scene at 11:28 a.m.
WSAV NOW reached out to the Athens-Clarke County Police Department on Baker’s case. They confirmed the case is still open and they will follow up with more details.
Baker was born on Jan. 20, 1977 in East Point, Georgia. She graduated Love Joy High School in 1995 and enrolled at Georgia College in Milledgeville. She graduated Cum Laude in 1998 with two bachelor’s degrees.