Pattern of abuse preceded woman's nine DUIs

Jun 16 2012 - 10:14pm



OGDEN -- The picture of the wreckage of a life that would lead to nine drunken driving convictions is as bad as you might think.

Chera Baird, 44, was sentenced this week to the Utah State Prison for up to five years on her eighth and ninth DUIs, which she pleaded guilty to in April.

Two days after arrest for DUI number eight in Ogden, her last DUI came Nov. 18, also in Ogden. In that instance, her blood-alcohol content was measured at .223, according to charging documents, nearly three times the .08 legal limit for driving. She also drove away from the scene of a minor traffic accident she caused before police caught up with her.

She was on her way to Pineview Dam, said both her attorney and her stepfather, from which she planned to launch herself in her car.

"She was going to end it at the dam," defense attorney Ron Nichols said. "There is a backstory, that people need to hear."

And not to make excuses, he said.

"She takes full responsibility, and accepts the prison term."

Beginning at the age of 6, Nichols said, she was sexually abused by three different men, abuse that continued into her teen years. There was no prosecution.

"She just buried it," said Nichols and stepfather Bill Wade, who joined her family several years ago.

Baird's past also includes boyfriends who stole from her, Wade wrote last month in a letter to the court. "We know of two of them who stole her credit cards and ran up thousands

of dollars in debt which she had to clean up herself ... she refuses to talk about it."

Her last marriage ended in bankruptcy, her husband also cheating on her with multiple other women, Wade said. Nichols said she has always been abused physically to some extent by boyfriends and husbands and she has never been able to have children. Add bereavement issues when her father died in 2004, he said.

"She's always felt guilty, that she was the cause of all the abuse coming at her from so many directions in her life," Nichols said.

"She'd drink to try to escape the feelings of guilt. Then she'd feel guilty about drinking. And drink to get rid of that guilt. It's a vicious cycle."

"Chera now knows there is no one left in the family that will tolerate her drinking," according to Wade. "She has lot her job, her car, her driving license, much of her belongings, her retirement savings, her house and her credit."

Psychological treatment in Utah County, where she moved after the Nov. 18 arrest to avoid the local "triggers" to her drinking, has her making strides, Wade and Nichols said.

The treatment is her first to look at all those triggers, issues identified by Ogden psychologist Rick Hawkes, Nichols said.

"This we believe is the first time she's understood it so she can get the monster behind her and deal with it," Nichols said.

"Is this program the ultimate answer for her? I really don't know," Wade wrote. "One thing I am sure of is that without it she would be dead."

The prison term is her first, after years of short jail terms, according to court records. Nichols said the drinking problems have come in clusters, separated by years between drinking binges, a pattern that bears out in court records.

Her first DUI came in 1990 in Layton, the second a year later also in Layton. Numbers three and four came in 1994 in Centerville and Farmington, respectively.

The fifth occurred in 2001 in Farmington, the sixth in Roy in 2007 and the seventh in Farmington a year later.

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