The last of three teenagers accused in the beating death of an 81-year-old Tempe man on a downtown street in Lynchburg, Va., on the day of his granddaughter’s wedding has been convicted.
Vernon Jackson, 17, pleaded guilty Friday to a reduced charge of second-degree murder before a Lynchburg Circuit Court judge in the death of George Baker. Baker lived in Tempe’s Garden Estates neighborhood and often shared jokes and held court with his golf buddies at the Ken McDonald Golf Course. He was in Virginia attending the wedding of his granddaughter, Leslie Gahagan.
Jackson will be sentenced on Dec. 16. His 17-year-old friend Kenneth Davis, who also took part in the beating, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Jackson, who was 16 when he kicked Baker in the ribs, was walking with a group of his friends the evening of Sept. 5, 2010. Davis, then also 16, said he was going to attack the next person he saw — and Baker was it.
If the case had gone to trial, Jackson’s lawyer would have argued that admissions he made to police weren’t properly obtained and shouldn’t be heard by a jury, according to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
Jackson and Davis and a 13-year-old (now 14) attacked Baker on Main Street. According to testimony, other teens testified Davis told the teens he was going to attack the next person he saw in order to impress some girls in the group.
Jackson has testified Kenneth Davis struck Baker first, punching him and knocking him to the ground. He testified he kicked Baker in the ribs. The 13-year-old kicked Baker in the head, according to testimony.
Baker died later at a nearby hospital, hours after telling his granddaughter how beautiful she looked on her wedding day and how much he loved her. The Gahagans live in North Carolina, but decided to get married in Lynchburg because they met while attending Liberty University there.
Mike Doucette, attorney for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office in Lynchburg, told the Tribune on Monday that the case was pretty much on par to be settled within a year. He said the justice system is set up in that state as to not let cases drag on.
“Actually, this could have been a little on the long side,” Doucette said.
Kenneth Davis was convicted of first-degree murder earlier this year and sentenced in May.
The 14-year-old was convicted and sentenced in April to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice until his 21st birthday, according to the Deputy Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.
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