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New charges filed against ex-Jacksonville detective arrested in 1999 killing

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

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The State Attorney’s Office on Wednesday filed additional charges against William Baer, a retired Jacksonville detective who was arrested earlier this month in the 1999 stabbing death of business owner Saad Kawaf.

Baer, 64, is now charged with second-degree murder, armed robbery, armed burglary, armed kidnapping and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

DNA evidence recovered at Kawaf’s home in Deerwood led to Baer’s arrest, as well as the arrest of Melissa Schafer, Baer’s ex-wife.

Lawyers for Baer 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’s attorneys 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 being held without bond pending his arraignment, which was pushed back to July 29.

As of Wednesday, there was no ruling yet on the bond motion.

Schafer, 50, remained in jail in Missouri as of Tuesday.

Baer joined JSO in 1975 and retired in 2002. At the time of the Kawaf’s death, Baer was actively investigating Kawaf for an unspecified crime, according to police.