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UPDATED: Lynchburg teen found guilty of first-degree murder

17-year-old Kenneth Davis is facing murder charges for the beating death of George Baker, III last September

March 10, 2011|Tim Saunders | Reporter/Lynchburg Bureau Chief
Blue Ridge Regional Jail Photo

LYNCHBURG, Va. — The teenager police say was the mastermind behind a brutal murder in downtown Lynchburg has been convicted of carrying out the crime.

A jury of 8 women and 4 men has found Kenneth Jerome Davis guilty of first degree murder for the beating death of George Baker, III last September.

Davis is 17, but he was tried and convicted as an adult and could receive a punishment of up to life in prison.

Davis' family agrees he needs to answer for his actions, but they wish he could have been convicted of a lesser charge.

"We understand that Kenny did something wrong and he has pay for the consequences but what family is wondering is why was he the only one?," said Emily Phillips, who believes her first cousin is taking the fall for a crime that had many names attached to it.

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Davis was with a group of his teenage friends when he brutally attacked Baker and left him for dead on a downtown Lynchburg street.

Police believe only two of the roughly 10 kids who were with Davis that night actually took part in the crime.

"Each and every one of them that participated, I don't care if they stood right there and watched or called the police,  I think all of them should have been charged," said Phillips.

The two who police say helped Davis have been charged.

A 14-year-old boy was convicted of first degree murder for Baker's death last week.  Unlike Davis, he was tried as a juvenile and could get a lesser punishment.

16-year-old Vernon Jackson is being tried as an adult, but he's getting a chance to plead guilty to the lesser charge of second degree murder for testifying against Davis during this week's trial.

Phillips believes that's sending the wrong message.

"To charge one person with first degree murder, then the other ones got second degree because they pleaded out - its given them the okay to do this again," said Phillips.

Baker's family walked out of court Thursday getting what they came for: justice for their loved one.

"We agree with the verdict, that's all I'll say about that," said Baker's son, Gregg Baker.

Davis will be learn his punishment when a judge formally sentences him May 20.  Because he's a under 18, Davis could receive a minimum sentence of juvenile probation and not have to spend any additional time in jail beyond what he has already served.  Prosecutors say such a minimal sentence is unlikely, given the severity of Davis' crime.

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Testimony has wrapped up in the trial of a Lynchburg teen, accused of beating an elderly man to death last fall.

Friends testified Wednesday afternoon that Kenneth Davis "appeared drunk" on the night he's accused of killing 81-year-old George Baker, III.

Those friends say they were part of a group that walked the Blackwater Creek Trail from Park Avenue to downtown Lynchburg with Davis on the night of September 5, 2010.

Multiple teen boys and girls testified that Davis was "acting up," cussing and falling down.  They said he was mad, yelling obscenities about his mother and claiming "if something has to happen, it's going to happen."

The friends say they followed Davis to Main Street downtown, where he approached Baker.

Before seeing Baker, a girl says Davis commented that he was going to hit the next person he saw.  After spotting Davis, the girl says Davis turned to the boys in the group and told them to "follow up" or get injured.

Multiple girls testified Davis told them he was going to carry out an attack for them.  One girl, a 16-year-old E.C. Glass High School student, says she told Davis not to hurt anyone for her.

Friends say Davis and two other teens, 16-year-old Vernon Jackson and a 14-year-old News 7 is not naming, ran up to Baker and attacked him.  One girl said she saw Davis strike first, punching Baker and knocking him to the ground.

Amy Tharp, a medical examiner based in Roanoke, says Baker died from multiple "blunt" injuries to his head and chest.  8 of his ribs were broken.  Tharp testified that Baker was in great health for his age, with a strong and healthy heart.  She says the injuries Baker died from could have killed anyone at any age, regardless of their underlying health.

Jackson was put on the stand Wednesday afternoon by the prosecution.  He will reportedly get a chance to plead guilty to a lesser murder charge in exchange for his testimony.  The 14 year old involved in the attack pled guilty to a first degree murder charge last week and will be sentenced next month.

Defense attorneys did not present any witnesses or evidence.  They did try to draw out facts during cross examination of the prosecution's witnesses that would cast doubt in the minds of jurors about a first degree murder conviction.

Closing arguments are expected Thursday.

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