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Ex-Jacksonville detective jailed on murder charge says life is in danger

William Baer charged with murder, armed robbery in 1999 stabbing death of Saad Kawaf

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo: William Baer
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo: William Baer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Attorneys for William Baer, a retired Jacksonville detective accused of murder, have asked a judge to set a bond for their client, contending his life is in danger at the Duval County jail due to COVID-19.

Baer is charged with murder and armed robbery in the 1999 stabbing death of Saad Kawaf. DNA evidence recovered at Kawaf’s home in Deerwood led to his arrest as well as the arrest of Melissa Schafer, 50, his ex-wife.

Saad Kawaf
Saad Kawaf (Courtesy of Jacksonville Sheriff's Office)

Lawyers for Baer, now 64, filed a bond motion in which they listed a variety of long-term health issues. The motion states that Baer had a lengthy battle with cancer in the 90s that spread to his heart and lungs and left him with an irregular heartbeat. Attorneys said he also suffers from kidney disease, high blood pressure and asthma.

Lawyers contend Baer’s incarceration at the jail -- where there have been more than 400 reported cases of COVID-19 -- presents a significant risk of death. Lawyers cited Baer’s 27-years of service to JSO and his longstanding membership at North Baptist Church in the bond motion, and assured the judge he is not a flight risk.

Baer is held without bond pending an arraignment. As of Tuesday, Schafer remained in jail in Missouri.

Baer was with the Sheriff’s Office for 27 years, joining in 1975 and retiring in 2002. At the time of the murder, Baer was actively investigating Kawaf for an unspecified crime, according to police.