People say accused killer of Mary Beth San Juan struggled financially

Published On: Aug 03 2013 06:32:00 PM HST

Mary Beth San Juan's accused killer is being described as a man with many physical and financial challenges from those who knew him at the Zen Center in Palolo.

Vernon Baker told Kathy and Clark Ratliffe and other members of the Palolo Zen Center that he had a brain aneurysm, a couple months later he said he had Crohn's disease. They say he was sick almost his entire 11 month stay, gaining a lot of sympathy.

"I would go knock on his door and ask him are you OK? Do you need anything? Different people would bring him food, prepare soup for him and things so he would have food that was prepare," said Kathy Ratliffe.

Because he was sick, he said he couldn't work. So the center gave him free room and board, and a van to drive. The center also paid him $500 per month to be the caretaker, but the Ratliffe's said it wasn't enough.

They said on top of the stipend the center was giving Baker he asked the members for more financial help back in March.

"He was having trouble paying his medical bills, his co-payments, so different Sangha members contributed to him, to help him pay the bills," said Ratliffe.

They say they gave him a few hundred dollars several times and other members did the same. The center ended up asking him to leave in April but he didn't move out until July 2nd. Three weeks later San Juan was found lifeless, bound and gagged rolled under a rug in the driveway of her Punahou Street home. The Ratliffes said Baker never spoke directly about San Juan, but knew there was a friend helping him. Court records show Baker used San Juan's Punahou street address on a parking ticket.

"He spent some time at this persons house, when he was ill this person would take care of him, and this person would sometimes give him rides," said Ratliffe.

After leaving in July they say Baker went back to the center a week later and was happy. He was there to practice more meditation. They say everyone at the center is grasping how he was arrested for such a gruesome crime.

"I was horrified, it's a quite a blow ... these kind of things happen in the news, but for it to hit so close to home it's very shocking," said Clark Ratliffe.

The public service for San Juan was held at six Saturday evening at Nuuanu Memorial Park and Mortuary.


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