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December 22, 2015

Police seek person of interest after psychiatrist found nude, dead in Center City hotel

Police Investigation
Clark hotel death Hayden Mitman/for PhillyVoice

Captain James Clark of the city's Homicide Unit addresses the press on Tuesday after the body of a psychiatrist was found in a Center City hotel.

Police are seeking a person of interest after the body of a Philadelphia psychiatrist was found nude Monday on the floor of a Center City hotel room Monday morning. 

According to Captain James Clark of the city's Homicide Unit, Howard Baker, who had a practice at 14th and Walnut streets, was found in a fifth-floor room at the Rodeway Hotel, at 1200 Walnut Street, about 11 a.m. 

"He was on the floor next to the bed. He was naked and he had a leather belt around his neck," Clark said. 

During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Clark said police have developed a timeline of the night that Baker died and said they are hoping to interview a person of interest. It is believed the person of interest was in that hotel room and robbed the dead psychiatrist. 

Clark said that after checking into the hotel alone at 3 p.m., from the hours of about five to 11 p.m., Baker had two male visitors into his room. The first visitor, Clark said, left after visiting the room for about an hour. The second visitor, who Clark said police hope to locate, was spotted leaving the hotel at about 12:30 a.m. carrying the victim's wallet and backpack. 

The person of interest is described as a male in his mid-20s. He was wearing a red "puffy vest" on the night of the incident, Clark said. Police are currently reviewing surveillance footage of the man and law enforcement officials will release his image to the public if officers need additional information. 

Asked if Baker was murdered, or if the death appeared to have been caused by autoerotic asphyxiation, Clark declined to comment until police have more information. He also declined to reveal if any of the men who visited the room were male prostitutes. 

Though, he said, there did not appear to be a struggle and no bruises were found on Baker's body. Clark said that Baker died of asphyxiation. 

"We talked to his wife and she didn't even know he was there," said Clark, noting that Baker said he was planning to watch the Eagles game at a Center City bar that night.