Pardoned by Bevin, jury finds Baker guilty in drug-related slaying

LONDON, Ky. (WTVQ) – After about six hours of deliberations, a federal jury found a Eastern Kentucky man guilty of conspiracy to use a weapon in a drug-related homicide.

Patrick Baker, who is now 43, faces life in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 21, 2021.

The case is a historic one since it marks the first time federal prosecutors have tried a person who was pardoned by a state governor.

Baker previously was convicted in state court in the May 2014 fatal shooting of 29-year-old Donald Mills Jr. in Mills’ Knox County home and was sentenced to 19 years for reckless homicide. But in the final days of his term, former Gov. Matt Bevin pardoned Baker, who’d served only about two years. Bevin called the evidence in Baker’s case questionable.

In April 2020, a federal grand jury indicted Baker on new charges of first-degree murder during the commission of a drug crime.

A jury — 11 men and five women — was picked Aug. 9, including 12 jurors and four alternates, and began hearing testimony the next day.

The jury took a three-day break last week when one of the male jurors was excused for illness.

Baker testified Friday in his own defense.

The jury heard closing arguments Tuesday afternoon and deliberated a little more than two hours before retiring for the night and starting against Wednesday morning. They announced their verdict just before 1 p.m.

The trial has been contentious at times as Baker’s attorney, Steve Romines, argued with Judge Claria Horn Boom when he repeatedly disobeyed her instructions about inadmissible evidence and hearsay comments.

Baker’s attorneys offered little comment after the jury’s verdict but did say they thought they could have gotten a different verdict if they had been able to present evidence the judge ruled was not admissible.

Baker’s team tried to convince the jury Mills was killed during the robbery by Adam Messer, who was a convicted felon. Baker’s attorneys tried to show Messer and his brother, Elijah actually had planned the robbery and that Baker was only an accomplice.

Mills’ wife was home when her husband was killed.

According to testimony at trial, Baker fatally shot Mills during an armed home invasion on May 9, 2014 in the Stinking Creek community. Mills’ pregnant wife and children were held at gunpoint while Baker ransacked the victims’ home for oxycodone pills. Baker entered the Mills’ home posing as a United States Marshal.

According to the evidence at trial, the KSP firearm forensics’ laboratory tied shell casings recovered from the victim’s master bedroom to Baker’s Kel Tec PF9. The Kel Tec 9mm was later recovered from a mud pit in Bell County past the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

A surveillance video from the London Dollar General showed Baker purchasing plastic handcuff approximately seven hours before the murder. The same handcuffs were later recovered feet from where the victim was fatally shot.

Furthermore, cell tower data was used to trace Baker’s movements throughout May 8 and 9, 2014 from London, to Stinking Creek, to Bell County.

Baker was indicted in May 2021.

“At its core, this case was about one thing: Patrick Baker’s role in the death of Donald Mills,” said Carlton S. Shier IV, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “Having heard the evidence, the jury found him guilty. I want to commend the steadfast work of our law enforcement partners and our trial team. This case warranted their dedication, and the jury’s verdict justifies their thorough effort.”

“Today’s guilty verdict sends a significant message and demonstrates our commitment to justice,” stated ATF Special Agent in Charge R. Shawn Morrow of the Louisville Division.  “The result of this case would not have been possible without the excellent work of the ATF London Office, our law enforcement partners, and the United States Attorney’s Office. An examination of the evidence was overwhelmingly in support of Patrick Baker’s guilt. This case is a strong example of the work ATF is doing, every day, to combat violent crime in our communities.”

Acting United States Attorney Shier; Special Agent in Charge Morrow; and Colonel Phillip Burnett, Jr., Commissioner, Kentucky State Police, jointly announced the conviction.

The investigation was conducted by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm and Explosives and the Kentucky State Police. The United States was represented in the case by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenna Reed.

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