Report: Man in Custody in Penn Doc’s Center City Death

Dr. Howard Baker, a Penn professor and Center City and Main Line psychiatrist, was found dead with a belt tied around his neck in a downtown hotel room.

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[UPDATE, 4:31 p.m.]: Action News is reporting a man is in custody in connection with the death. 6 ABC says the man was picked up on a parole violation.

Earlier: Philadelphia Police are not yet ready to label the death of a Penn professor and psychiatrist in Center City a homicide, but detectives are searching for a person of interest in the case.

Homicide Capt. James Clark briefed reporters this afternoon on the death of Dr. Howard Baker, who was found by a housekeeper yesterday morning at the Rodeway Inn on the 1200 block of Walnut Street. He said surveillance footage of the person of interest was found, but is not being released to the public because he believes detectives are close to locating the man. They were checking additional stores on the 1200 block of Walnut for surveillance footage this afternoon.

Clark said Baker checked in to the Rodeway Inn at about 3 p.m. on Sunday, after telling his wife he was staying in town to watch the Eagles game at a bar. Baker left the room twice and each time returned with another man. The first left apparently without incident after an hour. The second left with Baker’s wallet and backpack. Cops believe the man got away with about $100 in cash.

Baker was found naked on the floor of his room at the Rodeway with a leather belt around his neck. The cause of death was asphyxiation, though it’s not yet clear if he was intentionally killed. There were no signs of struggle.

According to Clark, Baker did not tell his wife about the hotel room. His car was found at another lot in Center City; he has a parking spot downtown near his psychiatric office on the 1400 block of Walnut Street.

Dr. Howard Baker was a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. On his website, Clark wrote that he practiced psychiatry for more than 40 years. A Christian per Psychology Today, Baker hosted a lecture sometime in the past few years at Penn titled “Thoughts on Psychoanalysis and Relationship to the Transcendent.” He had offices in Center City and in Wynnewood.

“It would be unethical to try to lead my patients into any particular spiritual belief, but I believe that it can be critical for some people to have the freedom to explore their spiritually and core values within their treatment,” Baker wrote on his site. “I have, therefore, devoted a lot of time and effort to understanding religion, both for my own personal development and that of my patients. I am an Episcopalian, but I am careful not to proselytize my own beliefs. I am convinced that my own spirituality actually makes me more able to work not only with people who are Christians, but also with people who actively practice other religions, as well as those who are agnostics and atheists.”

Baker was 75.

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