Artie Ray Baker murders U.S. Customs Inspector Kenneth G. Ward at the Lynden Port of Entry in Whatcom County on May 24, 1979.

  • By Daryl C. McClary
  • Posted 4/26/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5450

On Thursday, May 24, 1979, Artie Ray Baker, an escapee from a California prison, and his companion Marie Ferreboeuf arrive from Canada at the Lynden Port of Entry in Whatcom County.  Baker's car is selected for a routine inspection.  Baker and Ferreboeuf are referred to U. S. Customs Inspector Kenneth G. Ward for further examination.  Baker, fearing he will be caught, pulls a .45 caliber pistol from behind his back and shoots and kills Inspector Ward.

A Routine Inspection

That evening, U. S. Customs Inspector Kenneth G. Ward (1945-1979) and U. S. Immigration Inspector Gaylan V. Reimer were the two officers on duty at the Lynden Port of Entry in Whatcom County.  Inspector Reimer was working outside, screening vehicles for entry into the United States.   Inspector Ward was working inside the border station.  At about 8:30 p.m., Artie Ray Baker, 25 (b. 1954), and his companion, Marie Laure Ferreboeuf, 26 (b. 1953), arrived from Canada in a brown 1974 Chevrolet Vega, bearing California license plates.  During questioning, Inspector Reimer became suspicious when he learned that, although the couple claimed to have been in Canada for three days, they had no luggage, and neither occupant was the registered owner of the car.  Collecting their personal identifications, Inspector Reimer escorted Baker and Ferreboeuf inside the border station to Inspector Ward for a closer examination.  Meanwhile, Inspector Reimer began searching the car.

Unbeknownst to Inspectors Reimer and Ward, Artie Baker had escaped from the Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy, California in 1977, where he had been serving a life sentence for the 1972 robbery and murder of an elderly couple in Fresno, California.  He had been hiding in Humboldt County, California, with a group of militant radicals called the Wellspring Communion, an offshoot of the Symbionese Liberation Army, and using the alias Michael Joseph Arrington.  In March 1979, Baker was in a car when it was stopped by a Humboldt County Sheriff's Deputy.  The identification he gave the deputy was a California driver's License with the Michael Arrington alias.  Now, Inspector Ward had that very same false driver's license in his possession.  Baker thought a query of the FBI's database of "wanted criminals," might identify him as an escaped murderer and he did not want to go back to prison.

The Wellspring Communion Ranch, a haven for criminals and self-styled revolutionaries, was feeling pressure from law enforcement.  It was well known that the commune was a training ground for guerrilla warfare under the guise of raising Arabian horses.  The 240-acre ranch, in remote mountainous country near Eureka, was surrounded by a fence with a locked gate guarded by men carrying rifles and wearing bandoleers of ammunition.  Target practice and warfare tactics appeared to be their primary activity.  Baker and Ferreboeuf had been having "philosophical differences" with others in the Wellspring Communion and had gone to Canada to look for land to use as a base for their own army of armed radicals.

Inside the Border Station


Once inside the border station, Inspector Ward took the identifications behind the counter to the Teletype machine, to query the names for any "wants and warrants." While waiting for a reply, he asked Baker and Ferreboeuf to empty their pockets onto the counter. Inspector Ward then told Baker to turn around so he could perform a pat-down search for weapons.  Baker resisted and a brief struggle ensued.  Stepping back, Baker drew a Colt .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol from the back of his pants, under his shirt, and shot Inspector Ward through the heart, point-blank, killing him instantly.  Inspector fell backward against the front door and Baker shot him a second time in the chest.

Inspector Reimer, hearing the first muffled shot, started toward the station, but stopped short when he heard the second shot.  Then the door swung open and Baker, seeing Inspector Reimer, fired at him.  As Inspector Reimer ran for cover, north toward Canada, Baker fired at him again, the bullet breaking a window the in Canada Customs building. Baker and Ferreboeuf went to their car and began to leave the area.  They forgot to pick up their identifications from the counter.

Pursuit

Coincidentally, U. S. Drug Enforcement Special Agent Daryl McClary, assisting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on a surveillance, was in back of the Lynden border station.  Hearing a commotion inside the building, he looked through the window in time to see Baker shoot Inspector Ward.  Agent McClary ran toward the front of the building and saw Baker and Ferreboeuf exit the station and hurry to their car.  Baker fired at him and got into the Vega.  Agent McClary ducked around the corner of the building, ran to his vehicle to pursued the killers and broadcast the alarm on his police radio.  With Baker driving, the couple left the border station heading south on the Guide-Meridian Road.

At the town of Lynden, Baker began driving eastbound into open farm-country at a high rate of speed.  Agent McClary, having caught up with the Vega, broadcast its description and direction of travel.  Near Everson, Washington, Baker missed a turn, drove down a dead-end road, across a plowed field and became high-centered on a mound of dirt only a few feet from the Nooksack River.  Baker and Ferreboeuf ran from the car, disappearing over the riverbank into the underbrush.  Agent McClary radioed the location of the Vega and that the two fugitives were on foot by the river.

Ironically, about 25 police officers were just ending a training session at the Lynden Fire Hall a few miles away, when the call for assistance came over the police radio.  Within minutes, they were at the scene and had the area surrounded.  But there was a problem for the pursuing officers, night was fast approaching.  A helicopter from the Snohomish County Sheriff's Department was dispatched to help search the area, but visibility was poor in the fading light and a ground-fog was forming.  Within a short period of time, about one hundred local, county, state and federal police officers including several tracking dogs, were in the area to hunt for the fugitives.

The search was in a three-mile square area full of heavy brush, slag, deep ravines and second-growth timber.  Tracks from the car showed the suspects headed north along the bank of the Nooksack River.  They had taken off their shoes to walk in the water, hoping to leave a less traceable trail.  Searchers found Ferrebeouf's shoes as they kept up the pursuit through the woods and underbrush.  At about 1:00 a.m. on Friday, May 25, 1979, a search team reported finding a pair of sox and men's boots near the river and tracking dogs were given the scent.  At 1:45 a.m., one shot was fired at the couple after they were seen, through a nightscope, crossing railroad tracks next to the river. Several minutes later, searchers found Ferreboeuf, barefoot, curled up in the bushes next to the railroad tracks and she was taken into custody.  Baker had disappeared again into the heavy underbrush.

The tracking dogs were brought to the site where Baker had been spotted crossing the railroad tracks.  They followed his trail eagerly, but then started running in circles.  Baker, using evasion tactics, managed to confuse the dogs and after a few hours the K-9 officers returned, empty handed.

As daybreak approached, the helicopter from the Snohomish County Sheriff's Department returned to the search, along with a U. S. Customs fixed-wing aircraft.  But the night had been cold and a layer of fog still covered the ground, limiting visibility from the air.

Capture

One of the searchers was U. S. Border Patrol Agent Joel Hardin, an expert man tracker.  Even though the dogs and searching officers had obliterated most of Baker's tracks, Agent Hardin eventually found his trail.  Accompanied by two local law enforcement officers with shotguns, Agent Hardin proceeded slowly to track Baker through the woods.  He found where Baker had taken his boots off and had circled back, and where he hid in a tree.  Agent Hardin pointed out where Baker had paused to put his boots on again, confident he had lost the tracking dogs. 

At about 8:00 a.m. Agent Hardin was closing in when Bellingham Police Detective David McNeill spotted Baker crouching in the bushes, preparing to make a dash across Mission Road.  Detective McNeill, approaching from behind, aimed his shotgun at Baker and ordered him to "freeze." Baker surrendered without a struggle.  He was wet and cold, his bare feet were bloody and he was clutching the loaded .45 caliber pistol used to kill Inspector Ward.

On Friday, May 25, 1979, federal agents removed the couple from Bellingham to the King County Jail in Seattle.  On Tuesday, May 30, 1979, a federal grand jury indicted Baker on counts of murder, assaulting and interfering with federal officers, and illegal transportation and possession of a firearm.  Ferreboeuf was charged with being an accessory to murder and aiding and abetting the assault on federal officers.

On September 18, 1979, after a one-week trial in U. S. District Court, Seattle, Artie Ray Baker was convicted by a jury of the premeditated murder of Inspector Ward and of assaulting federal officers.  Baker's sentencing was scheduled for October 19, 1979.

Marie Ferreboeuf's trial was held in U. S. District Court, Seattle, one month later.  On October 12, 1979, After a three day trial, a jury convicted her of being an accessory to murder, and aiding and abetting the assault on federal officers.

On Sunday evening, October 14, 1979, Baker masterminded the bloodiest and one of the biggest jailbreaks in King County's history.  In the ensuing melee, one prisoner was shot dead, one police officer and three prisoners were wounded, and three other prisoners and two outside accomplices were captured.

Because of the violent escape attempt, Judge Walter T. McGovern advanced Baker's sentencing to October 17, 1979, Baker was given life in prison for Inspector Ward's murder, 10 years for the assault on federal officers and one year for the escape attempt, with the sentences to run consecutively.  On October 19, 1979, under extremely tight security, U. S. Marshals flew Artie Ray Baker to the federal maximum security penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, to begin serving a life plus 10 years sentence.  The federal prison system has a security classification for prisoners with 36 being the highest rating.  Baker was classified a 34.

On December 3, 1979, Judge McGovern sentenced Marie Laure Ferreboeuf to 10 years in prison for being an accessory to the murder of Inspectors Ward and five years for the assault on federal officers, with the sentences to run consecutively.  She was sent to the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia.

Jerry Ward


Inspector Kenneth G. "Jerry" Ward, age 34, was the first U. S. Customs Officer killed in the line of duty on the border between Washington and British Columbia, and the first one killed in Washington state.  He began his government career as a U. S. Border Patrol Agent, joining the Customs Service in 1971.  He was stationed on the U. S./Mexican border, at the Calexico Port of Entry in California, before being transferred to Lynden, Washington, in 1976.  Inspector Jerry Ward is buried in Conway, Arkansas.

The old Lynden Border Station, built in the 1920s of red brick, was replaced in 1986 with a much larger, modern facility.  In a dedication ceremony held on September 25, 1987, the new Lynden border station was officially named in honor of Inspector Kenneth G. Ward. It was the first time in Customs' 200-year history that Congress had authorized naming a U. S. border station after an officer killed in the line of duty.


Sources: Becky Fox and Rory Marshall, "Lynden Customs Officer Killed; Fugitives Captured in All-night Search," The Bellingham Herald, May 25, 1979, p. 1-A; "Suspect Charged with Border Murder," Ibid., May 26, 1979, p. 1-A; "Accused Man a Convicted Murderer, Sim Says," Ibid., May 27, 1979, p. 1-A; "Murder Indictment Returned," Ibid., May 30, 1979, p. 1; Timothy Egan, "Pair Hunted Down In Border Killing," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 26, 1979, p. A-1; "California Man Indicted In Border Guard Slaying," Ibid., May 30, 1979, p. A-11; Jack Hopkins, "Border-murder Suspect Gears For Fight Over 'Confession,'" Ibid., July 19, 1979, p. A-13; Jack Hopkins, "Plea for Ban Rejected; Judge OKs Press at Murder Hearing," Ibid., July 28, 1979, p. B-3; Bruce Sherman, "Border Case Goes To Jury," Ibid., September 15, 1979, p. A-9; Bruce Sherman, "Murder Conviction In Border Guard's Shooting," Ibid., September 18, 1979, p. A-5; Jack Hopkins, "Helper or Bystander? Woman on Trial in Border-killing Case," Ibid., October 11, 1979, p. A-15; Art Gorlick and Jack Hopkins, "Escapee Baker Gets Life; Mystery Man Named," Ibid., October 18, 1979, p. A-7; Jack Hopkins, "Border Slaying Accomplice Gets 15 Years," Ibid., December 4, 1979, p. A-15; Don Duncan, "Chase Ends in Couple's Capture; Man Charged in Killing at Border," The Seattle Times, May 26, 1979, p. A-1; "Woman Found Guilty for Role in Murder of U. S. Customs Officer," Ibid., October 12, 1979; "Artie Ray Baker Given Life Term," Ibid., October 18, 1979, p. A-10; Janet Horn, "Baker Taken to Illinois Prison under Heavy Guard," Ibid., October 18, 1979, p. A-10; Mike Flemming, "Lynden Border Station Named for Slain U. S. Customs Inspector Jerry Ward," Customs Today, Winter, 1988, p. 2.
Note:
As specified above, Daryl McClary, author of this account, witnessed the murder and aided in the pursuit.

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