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Law degree awarded posthumously to UGA student

By Greg Gelpi

The University of Georgia School of Law bestowed a law degree posthumously to Lovejoy High School graduate Tara Louise Baker Tuesday.

Baker, who would have graduated from the law school last spring, was killed three years ago, a day before her 24th birthday, near the UGA campus in Athens.

"It's bittersweet now in that we're receiving it, not her," Lindsay Baker, her father, said. "She'll never practice law."

Virginia Baker, her mother, called it bittersweet as well, adding that it is also "painful."

"I'm delighted so many in the community remember after all this time," Virginia Baker said. "I feel very good toward the school. They showed they do care, but they can't do anything to investigate."

Lindsay Baker held his wife as a black veil was removed from the diploma.

"On her tombstone we've even had the scales of justice carved into her stone because she believed in justice," Virginia Baker said. "We've got to find out who did this."

The mother has expressed anger with the Athens-Clarke Police Department for failure to keep the family informed on the investigation.

The memorial ceremony was sponsored by Safe Campuses Now, an Athens-based organization designed to increase student awareness of crime and prevent campus criminal activity, Keith Sims, executive director of Safe Campuses Now, said.

She called the memorial a "celebration of her life."

As part of her studies at Georgia College & State University, Tara Baker interned with Forest Park attorney Jack Hancock.

"Tara was a vibrant young lady," Hancock said. "She had a tremendous outgoing personality. She was very intelligent, but also had a tremendous desire to know more."

Hancock spoke at Tara Baker's funeral and at the ceremony awarding the law degree Tuesday afternoon.

"She was one of the most special people that as a parent you would like your children to be like her," he said. "To help other people is why she chose that career path. You could really tell what kind of person she was when she walked through the door."

She stayed on to work with Hancock for more than a year before attending the UGA law school.

Although her slaying hasn't been solved by police, the Athens-Clarke Police Department said foul play was involved four days after finding her body in her Athens home.

Police said a fire was set to destroy evidence of her killing.

The investigation is ongoing, although phone calls with leads have slowed down, Public Information Assistant Hilda Sorrow of the Athens-Clark Police Department said. She added that there was "nothing new to report" on the case.

A $27,000 reward is being offered in the case. Anyone with information on Tara Baker's death should call police at (706) 613-3330.

Tara Baker would have turned 27 Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.