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Conflict Of Interest Arises In California Double Murder Case

Public Defender's Office unable to represent man accused of murdering couple due to conflict of interest.

[caption id="attachment_1896" align="alignright" width="300"]

Anthony Harrison Baxter | Credit: Jim Schultz/Record Searchlight[/caption]

In court on Friday, Deputy Public Defender Ashley Jones told Superior Court Judge Cara Beatty that, due to a

conflict of interest, her office would have to drop out of the double murder case in which Anthony Harrison Baxter is accused of stabbing a couple to death.

Although Jones did not disclose the specific nature of the legal conflict, such conflicts typically — and routinely — arise when the office has previously represented someone involved in the existing case.

Redding attorney Michael Borges was tentatively appointed to represent Baxter, but he said he'll need time to review the case to ensure he also doesn't have a legal conflict.

If that turns out to be the case, another defense attorney would need to be found.

Baxter, who remains in Shasta County Jail without bail, is due back in court on Feb. 5.

Baxter, who made a "what-can-you-do?" gesture with his hands to someone in the audience shortly after entering the courtroom, is charged with two counts of murder in the Jan. 12 deaths of Micheal Helsby, 57, and his girlfriend, Georgia Engelhaupt, 61.

Baxter, who has an extensive criminal record and history of violence, was ordered on Friday to have no contact with the family members of his victims.

In what police have said is the first murder in Anderson since a fatal stabbing near Anderson City Hall on Aug. 13, 2011, Baxter reportedly told Anderson police he stabbed Helsby and Engelhaupt twice in their hearts with a butter knife.

He allegedly did so because, a police report states, they "disrespected" a woman he calls his wife and the mother of his 6-year-old daughter.

That woman, as well as her sister, lived with the couple, but Baxter told police he believed Helsby and Engelhaupt had threatened to evict them, according to an APD report.

Autopsies were performed Thursday on both Helsby and Engelhaupt, but the cause of their deaths has not been revealed, pending the results of toxicology tests, a coroner's spokeswoman said Friday.

In addition to murder, Baxter is charged with first-degree residential burglary, the unlawful taking of a vehicle, dissuading a witness by force or threat, making criminal threats and a series of enhancements.

Baxter is facing a possible death penalty sentence if convicted, but prosecutors have yet to decide whether they will seek capital punishment.

Originally posted by Jim Schultz on

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