NBC’s ‘Dateline: Night of the Summer Solstice’ is an episode that chronicles the 1990 murder of Ronald Baker, a 21-year-old UCLA student whose body was recovered the day after the summer solstice from a train tunnel rumored to be a haven for Satanists. With aspects like cults, pagan witchcraft, and Ron’s interest in a possible alternative religion, this case is one that baffled the LAPD and the state of California for a few years. However, as it soon turned out, the people responsible for Ron’s death were actually much closer to home. Curious to know all the details? We’ve got you covered.
How Did Ronald Baker Die?
Ronald “Ron” Baker was a young man who friends and family described as a serious individual looking for spiritual fulfillment. He was involved in the student ministry on the UCLA campus, where he was an astrophysics major and was also a Methodist church member, which he had attended since he was a boy growing up in Woodland Hills. It was also no secret that Ron was studying pagan witchcraft, also known as Wicca, and that he frequently meditated in the railroad tunnel. Yet, when his mangled body was discovered in the said tunnel, it confounded the local community to its core, purely because of the heinousness of the crime.
On June 22, 1990, the morning after the longest day of the year, a pair of hikers found Ronald Baker’s cold body lying near a railroad tunnel entrance at Chatsworth Park. He was wearing a string necklace with a pentagram pendant and had been stabbed a total of 18 times. Along with that, Ron’s throat was so badly slashed that his head had nearly been severed from the rest of his body. The Los Angeles Police Department had initially thought the body was that of a traveler who mistakenly got hit by a train. However, once Ron and his cause of death were identified, the homicide investigation began in full force.
Who Killed Ronald Baker?
Since Ronald Baker was murdered an hour after the summer solstice, the police thought that the Mystic Circle, a registered UCLA group which Ron was a member of, also known as the Bruins for Metaphysical Inquiry, might be involved. They looked into the possibility of his death being a sacrifice for the regarded holy day but found nothing, especially as the followers of Wicca are strictly against human slaughter. And that’s when the kidnapping and theft theory came to light. After all, Ronald’s parents had received a pair of anonymous calls – one before his body was found and one after – wherein the caller demanded $100,000 for his safe return.
Yet, as time passed by and the LAPD found no new leads or concrete suspects, they determined that the calls were just a ruse by the killer(s) to throw them off the track. They thus began questioning Ron’s roommates, Duncan Gordon Martinez and Nathaniel Blalock, shortly after which, the former disappeared. About two years later, though, Duncan reappeared with an attorney by his side and confessed that he and Nathaniel were both involved in Ron’s murder. He said that the pair had the idea to kidnap their roommate and demand a ransom from his parents after seeing a similar plot unfold on a television show. But it somehow escalated to murder.
According to records, Duncan admitted that he and Nathaniel brought Ron to the tunnel in Chatsworth Park early in the evening of June 21, 1990. They were just walking around when Nathaniel stumbled, leading Ron to make a joke. At that point, he said, Nathaniel, in a rage, stabbed their roommate before cutting his throat. Then, to get rid of any trace evidence that would lead the authorities back to them, they poured beer over the crime scene and went home to dispose of their bloody clothes and knife in a nearby dumpster. Even prior to this, though, their theory was to kill Ron before making the ransom demand so they could never be identified.
Once Duncan came forward with this information, the authorities focused on bringing Nathaniel to justice. Duncan agreed to help them and taped three conversations between himself and the latter that the police used to confront him. Furthermore, they also matched the blood taken from underneath Ron’s nails after his passing to Nathaniel’s AB blood type, the rarest that there is. With all this, Nathaniel confessed to using a knife to stab Ron “at least twice.” Therefore, in the end, both Duncan Martinez and Nathaniel Blalock were charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced in connection to Ronald Steven Baker’s brutal 1990 summer solstice murder.