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Shackled and standing before a judge, David Dale Baker admitted destroying his life with the drug that will now send him to prison for at least seven years.

"The bottom line is I got addicted to methamphetamine," he said in a quiet voice that quivered with emotion. "But prior to that, I was an excellent citizen in this community."

When Baker finished speaking, Natrona County District Judge David Park sentenced him to between 7 1/2 and 10 years in prison for conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine at his Casper home. He was also convicted of allowing two children, then ages four and eight, to be at the home while the drug was being made.

By making meth at his home, Baker endangered the children and his neighbors, said Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Marken. Meth labs often contain toxic materials that can harm the people living at or nearby them.

"Mr. Baker, the man who sits before you, had no right to do what he did," Marken said.

Calling Baker a remorseless criminal, Marken recommended Baker serve between 20 and 31 years behind bars. The prosecutor said a substantial penalty was needed to deter others from making meth.

"This is a horrible danger to society," Marken said.

Family members painted a different picture of Baker. They said he cared about his family and could redeem himself if given a chance.

"I ask that this court, if it decides to send my son away, help him a lot," said his mother, JoAnn Baker. "But I prefer he be helped here."

As she walked back to her seat, JoAnn Baker stretched out her hand toward her son as he sat at the defense table.

Park, who handed down the sentence without comment, recommended Baker for an intensive drug treatment program at the state prison in Rawlins.

Baker appeared in court with a shaved head and wearing a green jail uniform. He told Park he could be rehabilitated if given a chance and asked the judge not to impose Marken's sentence recommendation.

"That's the rest of my life," he said. "I will never see my mom or dad outside prison walls again."

Marken said there was no question Baker's family members have undergone a great deal of pain, but added that Baker had acted "in every possible way to subvert justice."

"Mr. Baker has never shown an ounce of remorse, contriteness, never took responsibility," he said.

During Baker's trial in August, Marken told jurors that officers responding to an assault report stumbled upon the remnants of a meth lab in Baker's home. Authorities says they found chemistry beakers, cans of acetone and plastic bags with meth, along with a turkey baster and hot plate that both tested positive for the drug.

Baker's girlfriend told an agent with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation that she, Baker and another man had tried to make meth two or three times, court documents show.

Baker's attorney, Don Tolin, asserted there was no meth lab. He suggested some of the materials and equipment police found - such as the acetone and propane tanks, weren't unusual given the fact that Baker was remodeling his home at the time and had worked as both a painter and welder.

Jurors agreed with Marken, convicting Baker on all six charges he faced.

Reach Joshua Wolfson at (307) 266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com.

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