A 26-year-old Dana Point man was sentenced this morning to 18 years and 8 months to life in state prison for the fatal New Year's party stabbing that was Orange County's first murder of 2011. Adam Randy Baker, shown in his booking photo at right, was convicted Dec. 12 of second-degree murder and attempted murder for killing Air Force veteran Robert Sickles and trying to do the same to the dead man's friend Brian McTeigue outside the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa just after 2 a.m. Jan. 1, 2011.
Baker was sitting on a bench near the Hilton valet booth at Bristol Street and Paularino Avenue, where he flicked a cigarette at a group of men and began arguing with David Sickles, the brother of 27-year-old Robert, who intervened. Baker then pushed Robert, whipped out a knife and slashed him across the chest.
McTeigue, 27, stepped to in tho help his friend but was stabbed in the back. McTeigue and Sickles' other friends managed to detain Baker as Costa Mesa police officers, who were already at the hotel responding to other disturbances, swooped in and detained the knifeman.
Sickles and McTeigue were taken to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, where Sickles was pronounced dead on arrival.
McTeigue's injuries were not life-threatening. Baker also required treatment for facial fractures and was arrested for murder after his recovery.
At today's sentencing hearing, Sickles' mother, aunt, family friends and McTeigue gave emotional impact statements, according to an Orange County District Attorney's office statement.
"I see my son David suffer from survivor's guilt, knowing Baker had him in his sights and that Robert was not the original target," Robin Sickles, the mother of the men, said. "David is incredibly traumatized from witnessing his brother's death and lives every day with the haunting images from that night. He watched helplessly as his brother lay dying in his arms, as he took his last breath."
Sickles' aunt said Baker not only took a life, he took a son, a grandson, a brother, a friend and an Air Force veteran, according to the statement.
McTeigue revealed he can't explain having to relive the memory of one of his best friends dying in his arms.
According to a City News Service report, Baker testified during the trial that he could not recall the fight. He said he went to the party forgetting that he had left in his pocket a knife that he had been using to open boxes at his job.
His defense attorney Gary Pohlson argued during the trial that the incident was a "glorified bar fight that went horribly wrong" and portrayed Baker as the victim who was trying to defend himself.
But Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy countered that after flicking the cigarette, Baker walked toward Sickles' group saying, "What the fuck are you looking at?" The veteran homicide prosecutor argued Baker started the fight, making him responsible for what happened.
"You can't pick a fight and pull out a knife in a fist fight," Murphy explained in his closing argument.
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As for Baker's injuries that kept him hospitalized for nearly a week, Murphy said Sickles and McTeigue had been within their rights to defend themselves, and he credited the deceased man with saving his friend's life. "It was the last thing he did," Murphy said after the verdicts were announced.
The Santa Ana jury in December convicted Baker on one felony count each of second degree murder and attempted murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon.