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Mobile home sale sparked W.Va. shooting

August 19, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An argument over the sale of a mobile home may have sparked a shooting that hospitalized a Berkeley County man Sunday night.

James Baker, 36, was in satisfactory condition at Martinsburg City Hospital on Monday.

Baker apparently was hit in the leg by fragments of pavement when a rifle was fired into a driveway at the Oak Tree Estates development at about 8:30 p.m., according to West Virginia State Police.

Baker drove himself to a gas station on Edwin Miller Boulevard, not far from the state police barracks, police said.

Baker alleged the gun was fired by Howard Hartman, police said.

Hartman, 50, told Sgt. Rob Blair he was unaware Baker had been wounded.

Baker told Blair that he thought he had been shot with a shotgun.

The weapon recovered by police was a .30-.30 rifle. Blair said there was "a large chunk taken out of the driveway" by the gunshot.

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Hartman told police Baker had come to his home and that he'd fired the weapon because he feared for his safety.

No charges had been filed in the incident on Monday.

"From what we gather right now, there's been an ongoing dispute between Mr. Hartman and Mr. Baker," Blair said. It apparently involved Hartman's purchase of the Oak Tree Estates mobile home from Baker's girlfriend, Lauren Downard, 38, of Martinsburg, Blair said.

According to Magistrate Court records, state police last week arrested Downard on a false pretense charge. She allegedly sold the house to Hartman, receiving $1,500 in checks and a 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass as a down payment, court records show.

The mobile home, however, is owned by a finance company, according to court records. The complaint alleged that Downard asked Hartman to write the checks to Baker, whom she claimed was her attorney.

State police said Baker's identification indicated he was from Hagerstown. Another document at Magistrate Court, however, listed the Sportsmans Paradise development in Berkeley County as Baker's address.

State police will refer the shooting case to the Berkeley County Prosecutor's office to determine if any charges will be filed, Blair said.

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