A Bell County jury found Gary Baker Jr. guilty of wanton murder. The jury recommended a sentence of 24 years.
Over the past two days, Commonwealth Attorney Karen Greene Blondell argued that Gary Baker Jr. murdered his son, Joshua Baker, after what police called a domestic argument on Feb. 13, 2014. Testimony from several individuals showed Joshua suffered from a stab wound in his chest that went into his heart.
On Tuesday, the jury heard testimony from Middlesboro Officer Josh Burchett and former Middlesboro Lt. Mike Hensley. According to the arrest citation and testimony, the police were contacted on Feb. 13 to report the stabbing incident at a residence on Evans Drive. The officers detailed the events of that night saying Joshua was unarmed when they arrived and Baker Jr. seemed to be void of emotion.
On Wednesday, the jury heard testimony from Sandra Davis, who called herself Baker Jr.’s girlfriend, Baker Jr.’s daughter-in-law, Pricilla Baker, Baker Jr.’s other son, Gary Baker III, and Gary Baker Jr.
During trial proceedings on Wednesday, the defense presented its case. First on the stand was Sandra Davis. Davis said she was Baker Jr.’s girlfriend of the past 17 years and she had stayed in the home with him and Joshua the night before the stabbing occured. Davis’ recollection of the days events detailed Baker Jr. drinking and smoking marijuana all day, beginning from the time he woke up at 6 a.m. Davis said she was not at the home all day, having left to go to her sister’s house, where she resides, for an unknown period of time. She says when she came back that afternoon, Baker Jr. was still drinking and continuing to smoke marijuana at that time. Davis said when the two men were arguing she went to get Gary Baker III for help. She also admitted while on the stand and under oath that she had lied to police officers in her original statement, claiming that Baker Jr.’s, now deceased mother had coached her on what to say to officers to prevent herself and Barker Jr. from getting into trouble.
Next on the stand was Priscilla Baker, Baker Jr.’s daughter-in-law. Priscilla says she lived next door to Baker Jr. at the time of the stabbing and that her husband Gary Baker III and their son had been at Baker Jr.’s house that afternoon playing cards with both Joshua and Baker Jr. Priscilla says she called over to Baker Jr.’s house that evening for her husband and son to come home and a short while later Baker Jr.’s mother, who was also a neighbor, called to see if something had happened because she heard a loud thump. Priscilla said she told her, the noise did not come from their home. Priscilla said a short while later Davis came running in saying that someone had been stabbed. Priscilla says she ran over to Baker Jr.’s home and tried to do CPR on Joshua.
Gary Baker III was called to the stand next. Baker III said he had been over at his fathers house before the stabbing took place, playing cards with his father, brother and son. He said his wife called to say that supper was done and he and his left to go eat. Baker III agreed with his wife’s statements about his grandmother calling and asking about a loud thumping noise and sometime later Davis came running to the house.
The defendant was the key witness on the stand. Baker Jr. gave a different account of what happened in the events leading up to the stabbing on Feb. 13. Baker Jr. denied that Davis was his girlfriend at the time of the stabbing nor was she his girlfriend now as she had portrayed in her testimony. He agreed they had been friends for the past 17 years and were romantically involved at some point but that was no longer the case and had not been for some time. His recollection of the events were that he had came to Pineville to get tags for a truck that day and therefore had not been drinking and smoking pot since 6 a.m. as Davis had stated. He claimed that Davis was easily confused and may have been talking about another day.
Baker Jr. reenacted how he recalled the events leading up to the stabbing with the help of a male acting the role of his son, Joshua. Baker Jr. said that after arguing with Joshua about not letting his girlfriend come to the home to spend the night, he asked his son to leave and go to his brother’s house. Baker Jr. said Joshua came in and out of the house several times getting his belongings before coming in a final time and approaching him while he was sitting in a chair in the living room. Baker Jr. said Joshua came at him saying, “You …, I am going to kill you with my bare hands”, while using his right arm to grab his father’s left arm and his left arm to grab his father neck in an attempt to pull him out of the chair. Baker Jr. claims he reached for a knife left sitting on his end table and stuck his son in what he thought was the stomach and they both fell to the ground. Baker Jr. said Joshua continued to choke him for a bit and then suddenly let go. At that point, Baker Jr. said he tried to get up and kept trying to get Joshua to respond to him.
After the reenactment, Baker Jr. sat kneeling in the middle of the courtroom crying. Two court officers escorted him back to the witness stand and there was a five minute recess.
Closing arguments followed with Blondell showing the jury a picture of Joshua and asking for justice.
Reach Reina P. Cunningham at 606-302-9091 or on Twitter @ReinaDailyNews.