The tale of Dr. John Baker and Mrs. Margaret Gilmer began long before their infamy. The majority of the reports state the two were intimate for 5 years before their crimes, and others stated they’d engaged in their infidelity for a decade.
Baker was a prominent physician, regarded as a pillar of the community in Abingdon, Virginia. Mrs. Baker’s sudden death, in 1891, was initially attributed to heart failure. Her husband pushed to have her embalmed as quickly as possible. She received a lady’s grand burial after that. Baker urged to have his wife embalmed… to destroy any traces of poison.
The killing couple soon realized it wasn’t enough to remove Mrs. Baker. Mr. Gilmer remained an impediment to their desires. Margaret was a well-respected wife and mother of five children before the events transpired.
It wasn’t long before Mr. Gilmer also became stricken. His brother, another doctor, arrived just in time to save his life. Once Dr. Gilmer nursed his brother back to health, he told the recuperating man he suspected he was poisoned.
As if by clockwork, Margaret rushed to confess to the authorities. Both she and the doctor were arrested, but the hammer would only fall on one of the fatally attracted lovers.
According to her testimony, she first visited Baker as a patient, but left as a lover. She pushed all responsibility for the crimes onto the good doctor and said he’d promised to “remove all barriers,” so the two could be wed.
Despite the fact that both Baker and Gilmer conspired to be together, Baker received the brunt of the blame. Margaret testified against him in court and her testimony was said to have carried the most weight with the court at his trial.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty on August 14, 1891. Dr. Baker was convicted of first-degree murder. His counsel moved that the verdict be set aside and listed 14 reasons for doing so, however all were overruled. They motioned for a new trial on August 18, but that was also refused.
Dr. J. A. P. Baker was hanged in November of 1891.
Mrs. Margaret Gilmer was acquitted of all charges in December of 1891.