Victim Believed Beaten, Robbed and Strangled
TULSA—The death of a murder suspect has frustrated prosecutors’ efforts to solve a cold case.
The big break in the 1983 case came from testing a plastic cup found under a table in Room 26 at the Sandman Motel, a location known to police for illicit activities, including prostitution.
In the room, Anthony T. Baltes had been bound, beaten and strangled during a robbery on Sept. 18, 1983.
He was 39.
From DNA evidence on the cup, police identified a suspect–Willie C. Moore of Wyoming.
Moore was indicted in Sept. 2019 and extradited to Oklahoma.
In February, he was ordered to face trial for first-degree murder.
After that, things slowed down, in part , because of the pandemic and, in part, for authorities to do more investigating. A jury trial scheduled for November was delayed until March.
Then, Mr. Moore died Dec. 13 after he had been taken from jail to the hospital for a health issue.
He was 62.
Last week, a judge dismissed the case.
The victim’s daughter cried when a prosecutor called her with the news.
Becky Baltes Bates was confident jurors would find Mr. Moore guilty.
She said she had looked “forward to looking Mr. Moore in the eyes afterward and saying “my piece to him.” (Families of murder victims are allowed to make victim impact statements at sentencing.)
“I guess God decided we didn’t need to go through all that and took matters into His own hands,” she mused.
“At the end of the day, He’s the one in charge.”
The victim’s daughter had just had her 12th birthday when her father was killed. She still lives in the family home in Tulsa.
“Just when you think you’re about to get justice,” she continued.
Mrs. Bates continued to talk about accepting God’s will.
“You want so bad to get justice,” the dead man’s daughterswent on, “I don’t know how to feel about it. I have mixed emotions.”
She said Mr. Moore showed no remorse at the preliminary hearing.
“I watched him the whole time,” she said. “He, definitely, thought he was going to get away with it.”
The victim’s daughter noted that at least the accused man had been in custody at the time of his death and “at least we have an idea now about what happened.”
The state’s multi-county grand jury indicted Mr. Moore and a Texas woman in the death, but prosecutors later dropped the murder charge against Erlene Gayle Lee in exchange for her cooperation.
“The death of Willie Moore closes this heartbreakingly sad chapter in the lives of the Baltes family,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter.
“I hope families and loved ones of victims in cold cases like this remain hopeful because law enforcement is doing everything we can to get them justice, no matter how much time has passed,” the state attorney general said.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler praised the Tulsa Police Department for its work on the case.
“Cold case homicides are very difficult cases to solve,” he said. “Occasionally, information or witnesses come forward which provides the necessary link for filing of charges, which is how this case was able to be advanced.”
Mr. Baltes was killed after going to the motel from a nightclub across the street.
When questioned in Wyoming about the death, Mr. Moore denied ever being in Tulsa.
However, Miss Lee testified at his preliminary hearing that they had come to Tulsa one time to visit her mother.
She said Mr. Moore and another man came back to her mother’s home and said they needed to leave.
She testified that Mr. Moore had blood on his clothing that night when he got in the car.
The room at the Sandman Motel had been rented under the name, “Mack Robinson.”
AfterMr. Moore was identified as a suspect, a police detective found he had previously used that name as an alias.
The investigation is continuing to try to identify a second man in the motel room.