PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – The state intends to seek the death penalty for the man accused of killing two young boys in Putnam County, State Attorney R.J. Larizza announced Tuesday afternoon.
The announcement comes after Mark Wilson Jr., 30, was indicted by a Putnam County grand jury earlier in the day on two counts of first-degree murder, one count of burglary with a battery and one count of burglary while armed.
Larizza said the State Attorney’s Office consulted with the family of Robert Baker, 12, and Tayten Baker, 14, before making the decision to seek the death penalty.
“The aggravating factors are the defendant was previously convicted of another capital felony or of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person. Because these were double homicides committed almost simultaneously, we believe that aggravator applies. Also, the capital felony was committed while the defendant was engaged in the commission of a burglary -- a forcible felony. We also believe that the capital felonies, or murders, were especially heinous, atrocious and cruel. We also believe that they were committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner," Larizza said. "I can tell you it was not a difficult decision to make.”
Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach said he is confident that the hard work of deputies, investigators, victim advocates and the State Attorney’s Office will provide justice for the boys and bring some closure to their family.
“While it’ll be up to a jury to hear the case and decide the facts -- here is not the place to have a trial by public perception -- but I’m saying only that this is truly one of the most horrific crime scenes that I’ve ever seen in my life,” DeLoach said Tuesday. “Our thoughts and condolences remain with the family.”
Wilson was arrested in late August in the deaths of the brothers.
Sheriff Gator DeLoach said the Baker family had recently moved from Polk County to Putnam County to be closer to family and allowed Wilson, the boyfriend of the boys' aunt, to live in an outbuilding on the family’s property in Melrose.
The medical examiner said both boys died from blunt force trauma and deep lacerations. Investigators said a hammer and a knife were used to kill the boys, and the weapons were both recovered by deputies.
A GoFundMe account has been created to raise funds for the boys’ family.
A day after the bodies of the boys were found surrounded by blood, the Sheriff’s Office set up a controlled meeting with Wilson and a witness.
During recorded conversations with the unnamed witness, according to a warrant, Wilson allegedly admitted to killing the boys because he felt the boys' family was trying to put stress on his family by reporting them to the Florida Department of Children and Families. It’s not clear why he or his family would be reported to DCF.
Wilson went on to say that he and his girlfriend had planned to kill the entire family, including the mother and a 4-year-old boy, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The plan, Wilson told the witness, was for the aunt to kill the mother and the 4-year-old, and Wilson would kill the boys, according to the warrant. Wilson told the witness he was mad because his girlfriend didn’t follow through after he killed the boys, the warrant states.
The boy’s grandmother told News4Jax the aunt had nothing to do with the planning of the murders. The boys' aunt has not been charged in the case.
Wilson is being held without bond.
“If there was ever a case for the death penalty, this is the one,” Larizza said Monday.
News of the state’s decision to seek the death penalty quickly spread among Putnam County residents who have been outraged over the killings.
“I feel like justice was served. I feel like those two boys were taken from our community and our society way too soon,” said resident Brittany Snyder.
Resident Wayne Thomas said: "We’re a little community. We’re tight. It breaks the whole community apart.”
“They need to get the death penalty. That’s children," said resident Jennifer Graham.
The last time there was a Putnam County death penalty case was in 2012 when Timothy Fletcher was sentenced to death after being convicted of first-degree murder in a 2009 killing.