3 teens charged in fatal beating of Tempe man - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

3 teens charged in fatal beating of Tempe man

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Posted: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 1:30 pm | Updated: 2:20 pm, Mon Sep 19, 2011.

Leslie Gahagan will always treasure what her grandfather told her as he hugged on her wedding day: How beautiful she looked and how much he loved her.

Those were the last words George Baker III, 81, of Tempe told his granddaughter at her wedding reception in Lynchburg, Va., hours before he was fatally beaten in the city’s downtown business district about 10 p.m. Sunday. It happened moments after the retired salesman left his hotel to walk to a restaurant, according to information from Capt. Todd Swisher of the Lynchburg Police Department.

Baker, whose son, Gregg, described him as always in the mood for a good restaurant, joke or story, holding court with his buddies on the Ken McDonald Golf Course and a fan of old movies, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital early Monday, Swisher said.

Three teenage boys — two 16 and one 13 — have been charged with murder in connection with Baker’s death. Police say Kenneth Davis, 16, beat Baker over the head and chest to impress a girl. Vernon Jackson is the other 16-year-old charged with murder. The 13-year-old’s name has not been released.

Emergency personnel had to revive Baker’s breathing at the scene near a restaurant patio. While at the hospital, he was only able to answer his family’s and doctor’s questions with a slight squeeze of his hand.

“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. The boy told the group he was walking with that he was going to assault the next person he saw, and that person happened to be Mr. Baker — and the two other boys acted in concert with him. What a tragic, tragic event.”

As family and friends tried to absorb the shock, Gregg Baker walked into his father’s home in the Tempe Garden Estates neighborhood across the street from the Ken McDonald Golf Course for the first time Wednesday since the tragedy. A crowd of media gathered in the living room to hear him talk about his father and the tragedy.

“It’s hard to imagine they’d come upon an 81-year-old man and do something like that,” Baker said. “It’s been difficult, very difficult. I don’t know how to describe it.”

Leslie and her husband Joseph Gahagan live in North Carolina, where Joseph is a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps at Camp LeJeune, but Baker was in Lynchburg to attend their wedding because the Gahagans thought the historic city was the perfect place for their wedding.

Baker had three children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Although George Baker thought the music at the reception was played too loud, he still had a good time as the wedding was a festive event, Baker said. Leslie and Joseph Gahagan’s wedding had 10 bridesmaids and 10 groomsmen.

“Everybody connected at the wedding,” Baker said. “Going from such joy, seeing them being happy and the fun that was had to such a tragic and sad event was hard.

“Our faith is helping us through this. He would want us to go on, he would want his friends at the golf course to keep telling stories and jokes and he’d want his grandchildren to keep pursuing their dreams.”  

George Baker, a widower of six years, attended Arizona Community Church near Corona del Sol High School and formerly attended Grace Community Church for many years, where he rarely a missed a Sunday to serve as usher.

“He was always there to help out,” said Dorothy McCandless, the widow of Howard McCandless, Baker’s ushering partner. Howard McCandless had lung problems, and when he couldn’t make it all the way up the aisle, Baker would step across to the other side and pick up the slack.

“He was a really likeable person,” Dorothy McCandless said. “He always had a smile on his face and a cheerful thing to say and would always give you a hug.”

The teens suspected in Baker’s death were known to police, but Swisher said he could not comment on their criminal history. They also were believed to have some kind of gang affiliation, Swisher said.

The boys are being held in the Lynchburg Juvenile Detention Center. They appeared for their arraignment on Wednesday, and their next court date is scheduled for Sept. 28.

Davis and Jackson will be tried as adults, according to information from the Virginia Commonwealth’s District Attorney’s Office.

“Justice will run its course,” Gregg Baker said. “I don’t want retribution, I want redemption. And, I want the young men who did this to come to know Jesus Christ like we have.”

Leslie Gahagan will always treasure what her grandfather told her as he hugged on her wedding day: How beautiful she looked and how much he loved her.

Those were the last words George Baker III, 81, of Tempe told his granddaughter at her wedding reception in Lynchburg, Va., hours before he was fatally beaten in the city’s downtown business district about 10 p.m. Sunday. It happened moments after the retired salesman left his hotel to walk to a restaurant, according to information from Capt. Todd Swisher of the Lynchburg Police Department.

Baker, whose son, Gregg, described him as always in the mood for a good restaurant, joke or story, holding court with his buddies on the Ken McDonald Golf Course and a fan of old movies, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital early Monday, Swisher said.

Three teenage boys — two 16 and one 13 — have been charged in connection with Baker’s death. Police say one of the 16-year-olds beat Baker over the head and chest to impress a girl. Emergency personnel had to revive Baker’s breathing at the scene near a restaurant patio. While at the hospital, he was only able to answer his family’s and doctor’s questions with a slight squeeze of his hand.  

“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. The boy told the group he was walking with that he was going to assault the next person he saw, and that person happened to be Mr. Baker — and the two other boys acted in concert with him. What a tragic, tragic event.”

As family and friends tried to absorb the shock, Gregg Baker walked into his father’s home in the Tempe Garden Estates neighborhood across the street from the Ken McDonald Golf Course for the first time Wednesday since the tragedy. A crowd of media gathered in the living room to hear him talk about his father and the tragedy.

“It’s hard to imagine they’d come upon an 81-year-old man and do something like that,” Baker said. “It’s been difficult, very difficult. I don’t know how to describe it.”

Leslie and her husband Joseph Gahagan live in North Carolina, where Joseph is a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps at Camp LeJeune, but Baker was in Lynchburg to attend their wedding because the Gahagans thought the historic city was the perfect place for their wedding.

Baker had three children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Although George Baker thought the music at the reception was played too loud, he still had a good time as the wedding was a festive event, Baker said. Leslie and Joseph Gahagan’s wedding had 10 bridesmaids and 10 groomsmen.

“Everybody connected at the wedding,” Baker said. “Going from such joy, seeing them being happy and the fun that was had to such a tragic and sad event was hard.

“Our faith is helping us through this. He would want us to go on, he would want his friends at the golf course to keep telling stories and jokes and he’d want his grandchildren to keep pursuing their dreams.”  

George Baker, a widower of six years, attended Arizona Community Church near Corona del Sol High School and formerly attended Grace Community Church for many years, where he rarely missed a Sunday to serve as usher.

“He was always there to help out,” said Dorothy McCandless, the widow of Howard McCandless, Baker’s ushering partner. Howard McCandless had lung problems, and when he couldn’t make it all the way up the aisle, Baker would step across to the other side and pick up the slack.

“He was a really likeable person,” Dorothy McCandless said. “He always had a smile on his face and a cheerful thing to say and would always give you a hug.”

The teens suspected in Baker’s death were known to police, but Swisher said he could not comment on their criminal history. They also were believed to have some kind of gang affiliation, Swisher said.

The boys are being held in the Lynchburg Juvenile Detention Center. Their court date has not been set, but the two 16-year-olds will be tried as adults, according to information from the Virginia Commonwealth’s District Attorney’s Office.

“Justice will run its course,” Gregg Baker said. “I don’t want retribution, I want redemption. And, I want the young men who did this to come to know Jesus Christ like we have.”

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