Two 16-year-old boys police say are responsible for the beating and kicking death of an 81-year-old Tempe man the night of his granddaughter’s wedding in Virginia will be tried as adults and are facing life in prison for the crimes.
The 16-year-olds, Kenneth Davis and Vernon Jackson, each has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of George Baker III, a longtime resident of the Tempe Garden Estates neighborhood across the street from the Ken McDonald Gold Course. A 13-year-old boy police say participated in the attack also has been charged with first-degree murder.
Baker died after police say he was beaten over the head and chest outside of a restaurant in downtown Lynchburg, Va., about 10 p.m. Sept. 5 during an attack initiated by Davis to impress a girl, according to Lynchburg police. The boys were arrested two days later and each indicted on first-degree murder by a grand jury on Oct. 4.
All three of the boys will be tried separately. Jackson’s trial will begin Jan. 5, and Davis’ trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 10, according to information from Jeff Bennett, deputy attorney for the Commonwealth in Lynchburg.
The trial of the 13-year-old, whose name has not been released, was scheduled to begin Dec. 6 but has been rescheduled to Feb. 28.
Davis and Jackson both are being held without bond in the Blue Ridge Regional Jail. The jail is an adult detention center and the boys have been placed in the adult population, according to information from the facility.
None of the boys has entered a plea in the case, but will enter it the first day of the trial, Bennett said.
“The judge has a full range of sentencing options,” Bennett said. “In the state of Virginia, first-degree murder carries a minimum of 20 years to life in prison.”
All three of the boys had criminal histories and were known to authorities, said Capt. Todd Swisher of the Lynchburg Police Department.
While walking along Main Street with a group of juveniles, Davis said he “was going to hit” the next person he saw, according to police.
Hours before Baker died at a hospital in Lynchburg, he had attended the wedding of his granddaughter, Leslie Gahagan and the last words he told her was how beautiful she looked and how much he loved her. Gahagan and her husband, Joseph, live in North Carolina where he is a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps stationed at Camp LeJeune. The couple had chosen Lynchburg to get married because they had gone to college there and loved the history of the city.
Baker, who attended Arizona Community Church near Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, was described by his son, Gregg Baker of Tempe, as someone who always was in the mood for a good restaurant, liked watching old movies and enjoyed playing golf with his buddies.
“It was a senseless, brutal attack,” Swisher said. “It was a random act that was totally unprovoked, and Mr. Baker played no role in the altercation.”
An attorney representing Jackson declined to comment.