Man convicted of killing 2 boys in Putnam County

Mark Wilson Jr. found guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in deaths of Tayten & Robert Baker

Mark Wilson Jr. appears in court. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla.Disclaimer: Some may find the details included in this story to be graphic in nature. Discretion is advised.

A man was convicted Thursday of killing two young brothers in 2020 in Putnam County.

A jury found Mark Wilson Jr. guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Tayten Baker, 14, and his 12-year-old brother Robert Baker, who were stabbed and bludgeoned in their home in Melrose. He was also found guilty of burglary with assault or battery and burglary while armed.

“The most devastating thing is whatever future they had, they no longer have. All because of one mistake, one thought, whatever reasoning it was,” mother Sarah Baker said after the verdict.

“We want the death penalty,” Sarah Baker added.

“We don’t want to work and pay taxes for him to live. Point blank. Period,” remarked cousin Kelli Coco.

A man was convicted Thursday of killing two young brothers in 2020 in Putnam County.

Sentencing will begin Oct. 24. Wilson, who was dating the boys’ aunt at the time of the slayings, is facing the death penalty. It’s the first capital murder case in Putnam County in a decade.

“The defendant murdered our child victims with a ferocity that shocked the conscience of us all,” State Attorney R.J. Larizza said in a prepared statement. “There was no mercy, only a violent and relentless rage that left two young brothers dead within their own home. He should receive the same degree of mercy he showed Tayten and Robert.”

The prosecution and the defense rested and then delivered closing arguments on Thursday. The jury left around 4:30 p.m. to begin deliberations, and shortly after 6:40 p.m., News4JAX learned a verdict had been reached.

“I think that was the hardest part to watch, that he didn’t have any kind of sympathy from what he had done,” Sarah Baker said.

In the morning, the judge denied the defense’s motion for acquittal. The defense did not call any witnesses, and it had very little cross-examination of the prosecutors’ witnesses throughout the trial.

Thursday morning also included testimony from Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab analysts about the DNA evidence found at the scene.

Investigators said a hammer and knife were found wrapped in placemats under a sink on the property where the slayings happened. An analyst testified that the blood of Tayten Baker was found on the hammer and that the blood found on the knife matched for Tayten Baker and other DNA found on it was a possible match for Robert Baker.

The analyst also testified that they found Wilson had likely handled the knife, saying the sample shows he is 55,000 times more likely to have handled the knife than someone else.

A swab of the placemat in which the weapons were wrapped contained both the boys’ DNA, as well as what was possibly Wilson’s DNA.

A black sweatshirt found on the scene showed the presence of blood, and analysts testified the DNA matched that of Wilson and the boys.

Jury deliberations got underway Thursday in the trial of a man accused of killing two young brothers in 2020 in Putnam County.

The prosecution and defense went back and forth over whether the murders were premeditated.

“The circumstances of arming himself with two different weapons, entering into a location where there is a distance he has to go to the first victim, repeatedly striking the victim with a hammer, and then slitting the throat and stabbing him multiple times. And then after doing that to the first victim, he proceeds to the second victim and does the same exact crime,” said Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis.

“Looking again to the statement, repeated statements by the defendant regarding his actions, clearly point to an impulsive overreaction. He clearly refutes the state’s allegations in count one that this was a premeditated act,” said defense attorney Rosemarie Peoples.

In closing arguments, the prosecution said he should be found guilty. It contends the repeated blows the boys suffered showed their murders were premeditated.

“The evidence in this case has shown no proof that there was any reason to justifiably kill or commit excusable homicide on these two boys,” Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton said.

In closing, the defense didn’t deny Wilson killed the boys, instead saying the disorganized nature of the crime scene showed it wasn’t premeditated, noting Wilson told investigators that he had been up for three days before the killings and that he thought the boys were abusing his daughter — there was never any evidence of that, however.

“Mark told [a detective] that he’d been up for three days and that he wasn’t in his right mind. [The detective] asked, ‘OK, so when this happened, you’re not pissed off and upset, you’re just cold and numb to it?’ Mark answered, ‘That’s what I’m saying, man. It wasn’t, it wasn’t me,’” said public defender Brian Smith.

In an interview with law enforcement, Wilson said that he was high on meth the morning of the slayings and that he didn’t remember.

RELATED: Mother of man accused of killing Putnam County boys testifies in trial | Mother, grandmother of slain Putnam County boys testify in accused killer’s trial

Jury deliberations got underway Thursday in the trial of a man accused of killing two young brothers in 2020 in Putnam County.

On the morning of Aug. 26, 2020, Sarah Baker woke up to find the bodies of her 12- and 14-year-old sons in their home where the boys had been sleeping. The boys’ step-grandmother, Debra Benson, said reliving that day this week has been difficult.

“I was there that morning, but I didn’t fully see their injuries and I just — I cannot believe that he did that to them. It’s hard to know how much they suffered and how brutal. To not have the why and the reason, I really expected to have a reason at this trial,” Benson said. “I loved them so much, and we just miss them so much.”

In emotional testimony earlier this week, Wilson’s mother said he confessed to her, and when investigators confronted him in an interview, he crumbled, barely mumbling answers and often responding in ways that didn’t make sense.

“It’s just been hard because, for the whole past two years, I naively thought that I was going to get the reason of why. That’s the biggest thing is why did Tayten and Robert have to die? Why? What is the reason? And we didn’t get that, and we’re not going to get that, and I don’t think we’ll ever get it,” Sarah Baker said.

About the Authors:

I-TEAM and general assignment reporter

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.