Police in Philadelphia are searching for a person of interest in the strangulation death of a prominent psychiatrist who was found naked in a local motel with a belt tightly wrapped around his neck.
Officers were called to the Rodeway Inn on Walnut Street in Center City at around noon Monday after the 75-year-old victim, identified as Dr Howard Baker, was discovered lying face up in a fifth-floor room.
Baker, who had an office just a short walk from the hotel, was pronounced dead at the scene and homicide detectives were summoned to investigate.
Initially, police believed Baker died from auto-erotic asphyxiation, where a person accidentally strangles him or herself during a sex act. Responding officers reportedly found sex toys in the hotel room, according to the station 6ABC.
The medical examiner completed an autopsy on Baker’s body Tuesday and determined the cause of death to be strangulation.
As of Tuesday afternoon, police have not released a motive, but sources familiar with the investigation said detectives were looking into the possibility that Baker was killed during a robbery.
Detectives have determined that Baker, who frequently stayed at the hotel, checked into room 504 at around 3pm on Sunday. Between the hours of 5 and 11pm, he was visited by two men.
Police said on Tuesday they were looking for Baker’s second visitor, who was allegedly seen leaving the victim’s room at 12.30am carrying the psychiatrist’s backpack and wallet.
At around 11am on Monday, a housekeeper entered Baker’s room after he failed to check out and found his lifeless, naked body with a belt around his neck.
Police stopped short of ruling Dr Baker’s death a homicide, saying they were waiting to speak to the person of interest about what happened.
The unidentified person of interest was described as a man in his mid-20s with a light complexion who was last seen wearing a red puffy vest.
According to Baker’s biography, the 75-year-old man had worked as a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and ran a private practice out of two locations, one of them on Walnut Street, just a couple of blocks from the Rodeway Inn.
Susan Phillips, a spokesperson for UPenn School of Medicine, revealed to Daily Mail on Tuesday that Baker’s associate appointment at the university ended in 2013.
Baker graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison with a Bachelor’s degree and an MD, and completed his residency at the University of Pennsylvania.
The veteran psychiatrist specialized in the treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in adults, trauma and PTSD, and personality disorders, among other mental-health conditions.
Baker’s wife, Dr Margaret Baker, is a psychologist. The husband and wife shared a practice in the Philadelphia suburb of Wynnewood.
According to Howard Baker’s Facebook page, he has two grown sons and a young grandchild.