The Desert Eagle .50 Action Express is a gas-operated, semiautomatic pistol, designed by the folks who brought us the .44 Magnum, and manufactured by the Israeli war machine. It is quite possibly the most powerful handgun in the world, the brass knuckles of the Devil’s Right Hand.
Gun enthusiasts love to talk about the science of the Desert Eagle, about its "polygonal rifling" and "rotating bolt" system. They rave about the gun’s "formidable recoil" and "maximum stopping power," how it’s closer in function and force to an M-16 than a pistol. But the truth is the weapon’s physics is more alchemy than science. Pull the two-stage trigger and, instantly, vital organs transform into liquid, bone into meal, life into death.
Here’s a testimonial to the stopping power of the Desert Eagle, told by a friend of one of its victims: "The bullet entered her armpit, bounced around, and them came out her chest. The only organ it didn’t touch was her heart."
The heart in question belonged to Riverside resident Jolene Kay Baillie–"Jo-Baby" to those who knew and loved her. When she awoke on the Saturday morning of July 1, 2006, Baillie, 48, was a fairly successful business owner and mother of two teenage children. Before sunset, the transformative power of a Desert Eagle had turned her into a statistic. Police arrived at Baillie’s Hallwood Avenue home shortly after 6pm to find Robert Cole Baillie, 50, sitting on the front porch muttering that he had just shot his wife.
Inside, officers found Jolene in the couple’s bedroom, still conscious despite the gaping bullet holes in her chest and side. Robert was arrested and Jolene rushed to Riverside Community Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 2:40am the next day.
A brief article on the incident ran in the July 2 Riverside Press-Enterprise. Since then, not a single mention of the story has appeared in the P-E or any other newspaper until now. The shooting was, by journalistic standards, wholly unremarkable–just another one of the estimated three domestic homicides that occur in the U.S. every day.
That Jolene Baillie’s violent death was less than front-page news is a terrible reality of our times. It’s all the more terrible because the bullet that killed her–a .50-caliber missile fired from a Desert Eagle–is still in mid-flight, still connecting with soft tissue, still shattering lives with catastrophic intensity.
"OK, well, one crazy fact about me: Just recently, my father shot and killed my mother. So since then, I got into the business and learned how to cope with life, through porn and through my friends. If I didn’t have my friends–or my lil’ brother–I don’t know where I would be in life as of right now . . . probably dead."
On the day that her stepfather killed her mother, Kelsey Baillie was an 18-year-old student at Riverside Community College. Robert Baillie’s Desert Eagle put a stop to that. Today, Kelsey is a sometimes-porn actress and model, living with her younger brother Dalton, 17, in the Canyon Crest apartment they moved into after the family home was sold out from under them. Her words about coping with life serve as the introduction to her MySpace page, titled "Happy in Another Life."
Kelsey is five-foot-six and slender, pretty in a redheaded girl-next-door way. She is a survivor, having lived through more pain than most people suffer in a lifetime. As she recalls the day her mother died, her green eyes reveal so much sadness it hurts to look into them.
"The last time I saw my parents, they were in the pool in the backyard," she says. "I said, ‘Mom, I’m going,’ and she said, ‘OK–go make me a margarita,’ and laughed. I got down on my knees and hugged them both for the first time in years. Then I left."
Fourteen months later, Kelsey still isn’t clear in her mind what took place between her parents after she left them alone that Saturday morning. Yes, Robert Baillie, an out-of-work construction contractor, had been "seriously depressed" in the days leading up to the shooting, she said. Yes, she said, her parents were having "problems." The couple had been squabbling over money: A recent business venture of Robert’s had failed, and Jolene’s appraisal business on Central Avenue had been suffering from the housing slowdown. But Kelsey insists that whatever it was that caused her step-dad to pick up the Desert Eagle he kept next to the bed, he would never have shot Jolene intentionally.
"It was accidental," she says. "The only reason why he had the gun was because he knew Dalton couldn’t handle it."
Kelsey says that life had finally taken a turn for the better, that last year her mother was alive. The family was just starting to recover from two tragedies: the death by heroin overdose of Kelsey’s older brother, Zack, and her own two-year addiction to methamphetamine.
"I had put my family through so much," she says. "I had disappointed them so much that I didn’t feel comfortable even sitting with them after I got off meth. That’s what just kills me. I was just starting to be a daughter to my mom again. We were just starting to be a family again."
Robert Baillie’s Desert Eagle put a stop to that, too.
Sometime around 7pm on July 1, Dalton Baillie’s friends told him that police had cordoned off the street in front of his house.
"As soon as Dalton got home, he called me and said, ‘Mom’s been shot.’ When I got there, the cops were tearing up the place, looking for more guns. We asked them, ‘Who did this? Who shot our mom?’ They said, ‘Your dad did.’ Dalton just fell. He sat down on the floor and started crying.
"The police said that when they got to the house, Dad was real rude, like he didn’t give a fuck about what he did," she says. "They said that when he called them, they could hear my mom in the background going, ‘Why would you do this to me? Why would you do this to my family? What are the kids going to do?’" Not ten minutes after insisting on her father’s innocence, Kelsey says, "I think he should get 10 years for doing that. He shouldn’t have done that to my mom."
Kelsey says she and her brother watched police and detectives tear apart the house until about 1am. When the cops finally left, Julie Keegan, the Baillie’s next-door neighbor, drove Kelsey and Dalton to Riverside Community Hospital. There they watched as the life of the woman Keegan described as "the rock that grounded the family," slowly drained out of her body. At 2:35am, doctors took Jolene off life support. "She held on for four minutes," Kelsey says.
Almost immediately after Jolene was pronounced dead, police approached the teens to interview them. Keegan, a single mother of two young boys, wasn’t having it.p
"What the hell are you doing?" she said. "These kids just watched their mom die. They’re done for the night." The Baillie children returned to a house devoid of life. According to Kelsey, she and her brother stared openmouthed for hours at the devastation wrought by a single .50-caliber bullet. Chairs and desks lay flipped on their sides, the contents of every closet lay strewn in the hallways. For the teens, the scene was an introduction–their first real glimpse at the chaos that had become their new lives.
The 5000 block of Hallwood Avenue is one of the prettiest neighborhoods in all of Riverside. Stately, two- and three-story houses and towering trees line a narrow road of black asphalt, stripe-less and without sidewalks, like a private road. Keegan says the residents of Hallwood are mostly liberal in their politics, which meant that the Baillies, who she described as "hippy conservatives," kept mostly to themselves. Jolene and Robert Baillie had divorced in 2000, but remained living together–whether out of love, convenience, or for the sake of the kids is anybody’s guess. They were incredibly permissive parents. They allowed the kids to smoke pot in the house, bought them every toy and game and article of clothing they desired.
In other words, says Kelsey, the kids were spoiled rotten. If they needed money, they asked for it and received it. If they needed food, they waited until food was served. And suddenly, on July 2, 2006, they were responsible for everything.
"They were kids, for God’s sake," says Keegan, 35. "Before all this happened, they had maybe–what? Made their beds? Maybe?"
Shortly after the shooting, the teens’ maternal aunt and uncle came down from Colorado to look after them. The couple, whom Kelsey and Dalton barely knew and so different from them in culture and personality that they might as well have flown in from another planet, took one look at all that marijuana use and ordered the teens to shape up, and, when they didn’t, left.
The siblings were alone, with a mortgage and utility bills and an empty refrigerator and a habit for getting things the easy way. Kelsey, the survivor, had gleaned just enough from her mother’s appraisal business to know that the family home was their most important asset. As she recalls those first days without Jolene, she refers to the house with a kind of post-traumatic reverence–the House, with a capital "H." Keeping the house was everything to Kelsey.
The family’s bank account was nearly empty, a casualty of the housing crunch. Jolene’s life insurance payout was tied up for what would ultimately be a full year of red tape. Kelsey had no marketable skills she knew of except one: She was young and pretty in that redheaded girl-next-door way. Men tended to leer at her, so why not turn all that drool and goggling into something she really needed?
Twelve days after her mother’s death, having just received her license to drive, Kelsey posed for her first set of pictures for a skin magazine. She landed the gig by answering an ad on MySpace. She later appeared in several increasingly hardcore shoots, for magazines and websites with names like "Lesbian Training" and "Casting Couch Teens." She used the pseudonym "Heather Presley."
According to the police press release on her mother’s death, Kelsey’s dad was initially detained at the Robert Presley Detention Center. Think about that if you plan on visiting "Casting Couch Teens" after reading this article.
Kelsey Baillie says she’s just fine with her work in the porn industry. She won’t do it anymore, she says, but it was really no big deal.
"It was just a drama zone," she says. "So much drama there. But I wanted to do it. I felt comfortable. My body’s beautiful–so what?"
Those who love her aren’t so OK with it.
"It makes me sick to my stomach," says Julie. "When she told me she was thinking about it, I begged her not to. I told her she should go back to school and wait for the estate to be settled. But I think she just couldn’t deal with the stress of all those bills. Kelsey is surviving. It makes me sick, but she’s surviving."
Dalton refused to be interviewed for this article. Kelsey says her porn work was especially hard on her little brother.
"He didn’t know about it for a long time–he thought I was just stripping," she says. "Then he found out, and it got really ugly. We got into an argument and he called me ‘stupid stripper whore.’ Here I was, giving him money, and he said that to me."
In October, the Hallwood home Kelsey had fought so hard to keep was sold by Robert Baillie’s cousin, Shawn Cole, whom a Riverside Superior Court judge had named executor of the family estate. How much money from the sale went to the Baillie kids is not known–Kelsey wouldn’t’ reveal it. What is known is that by August of this year, Kelsey spoke of being deeply in debt.
Coincidentally, the home was sold to a Corona Police officer.
According to his sister and Keegan, Dalton Baillie’s life since his mother’s death has been a disaster. On the morning of July 1, 2006, Dalton was a straight-A student with a gift and passion for motocross racing. He was on the cusp of going professional, having placed third in the 2005 Pro/Am-Sun MX amateur motocross regionals. Of the two siblings, he was closest to Robert Baillie, who home-schooled him and drove him to all his races.
Again, all that was stopped by the power of the Desert Eagle.
Kelsey says Dalton’s grades "went into the toilet" after the shooting. He hasn’t worked, she said, since getting laid off from Riverside Community College a few months back. Though they live together, the two hardly ever speak. Kelsey says her brother sold his racing equipment for party money.
"I saw Dalton probably two months ago," Keegan says. "He didn’t show any emotion at all. Kelsey’s actually in survival mode, but Dalton’s turned off and quietly going down the tubes."
On the anniversary of her mother’s death, Kelsey Baillie temporarily changed the title of her MySpace page to "One Whole Year." The page is filled with photos of Kelsey, either alone or with friends, engaging in some form of drug use. Mostly, the drug is pot, being inhaled, ingested or simply held close to the heart like a rosary chain. The page is also peppered with images of Kelsey’s mother as Jo-Baby, smiling, playful, not dead. Another photo shows Kelsey holding what appears to be a genuine handgun, pointing it square at the camera.
On Aug. 2, Robert Cole Baillie was led in shackles into Riverside Superior Courthouse Department 63 for what was supposed to be the first day of his murder trial. Though the proceedings were delayed until later this month, Judge Helios Hernandez issued a bench warrant for Kelsey Baillie’s arrest for not obeying a subpoena to appear that day as a witness against her stepfather. At the request of prosecutor Raymond Ramirez, execution of the warrant was put on hold to give Kelsey a chance to appear for the next court date, scheduled for Sept. 6.
"No one wants to cause these kids any more pain than they’ve already gone through," Ramirez said in the hallway afterward. "But she has to show."
In an email to the IE Weekly, Kelsey wrote that she had every intention of showing up for the Sept. 6 court date. The email was dated Sept. 8.
Kelsey also wrote that she’s done with porn, and is considering following in her mother’s footsteps by pursuing a career in real estate. She also said she’s "come a long way" in forgiving he stepfather. "Don’t get me wrong," she wrote. "I have straight anger and hate towards him. He killed my mother. But he’s still my father, and I still love him."