In January of 2015, the life of Chris Baur was taken. Nearly five years later, in November of 2019, the trial for the accused finally began. During the two weeks of these court proceedings, Chris’s family were our guests at Candace House. A few months later, they graciously agreed to share some of their experiences at our fundraising dinner. Below is the speech that was shared by Chris’s aunt, Kathy.
We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Baur family for letting us share in your journey.
Our society today is big on words and phrases. You see them everywhere - breathe, be happy, this is us. Inspirational words as it were. Candace House's list of words in their values are compassion, respect, empowerment, integrity, collaboration, social justice, diversity and inclusion. Words to describe Candace House from my fellow tablemates definitely echoed those, providing veracity that Candace House is meeting their goals. Their words: compassion, caring, support, comfort, and individuality.
One word for me that encompasses what Candace House lives and breathes and bursts at its seams with- humanity, and the ability to humanize itself. The dictionary defines the verb humanize as the ability to make things more humane and easier for humans to understand. To make something less unpleasant and more suitable for people
The importance of this word is readily apparent to anyone who has had a loved one murdered in their lives. You become dehumanized with murder. You learn to doubt that there will ever be ANYTHING in your life that approaches what your former beliefs entailed. About what defines humanity and what are the characteristics of a human being.
Reality is a rude awakening. Those TV shows, those magazines, those newspaper stories do happen to regular people. And you are now THAT family. The one who people whisper about and say "how sad" behind your back but do not know what to say to your face. The dehumanizing process has begun. And it continues. Your loved one's body no longer belongs to his family but becomes a part of the court process. A piece of evidence per se. Yours not to view that final time until permitted. The funeral is only planned when the body is released from evidence. Chris's body did not attend his funeral- he was still in the morgue. No viewing of his remains was allowed once released. He was sealed in plastic and decomposed so badly that by law it could not be opened. So we never got that part of closure which usually comes with death.
The word non-human becomes synonymous with your person- no rights whatsoever existed for him or his family after his death. The "remains" becomes a detailed report of injuries and cause of death. And he became labelled with other words - victim, deceased, fatality, casualty. No more Chris. No more son. No more grandson, nephew, cousin, friend, lover.
As a family, it became glaringly obvious to us that the murderer became the victim. All his rights were carefully tended to; all the motions he made, the delays in the trial, the five different lawyers he had were catered to. No mistrial in this case. The crown could not emphasize this enough. Our family was dragged through five years of silence so that a mistrial would not happen. We could only talk amongst ourselves in secretive hidden whispers. No public mourning. No rebuttal in newspapers about what was said. Frozen and hidden just as Chris's body had been for six long weeks after his death before being found.
The indignities of the pretrial court proceedings were a mockery of "humane" behaviour. In the newer part of the law courts, the courtroom is exhausting. Dark, with poor lighting, low ceilings, no windows. A large viewing gallery that quickly became filled with groups of high school students and onlookers. Anyone was allowed to witness our pain. The family room provided for us was a facsimile of the court- small dark room, small dark couch, small dark table. There was a kitchenette, unstocked of course, so the Wordsworth building cafeteria, ten minutes away, was our only source of refreshment. By the time all of us placed our coats and belongings in the family room, there was no place to sit. Cold and uninviting, it certainly did not ease any tensions from the court proceedings.
This is the place we came to after we heard the killers taped confession. The explicit coroners’ report was read in court. Information we were not told before as it was a guarded secret we were not privy to in case the evidence, Chris's body, jeopardized the case. We heard from the coroner exactly what was done to Chris by his confessed killer prior to his last breath. So there we sat in stupefied shock while the horrendous brutalized slaying of Chris described in descriptive detail by the forensic specialist was read. I am sure anyone in the courtroom that day did not mistake whose Chris's family was. There were many bystanders witnessing our pain. And our recovery area- that chilling family room.