Man convicted of killing 2 Putnam County boys sentenced to death

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

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

Mark Wilson Jr., the man convicted of murdering two young brothers in 2020 in Putnam County, was formally sentenced to death by a judge.

Last year, a jury unanimously recommended the death penalty for Mark Wilson Jr., who was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the killings pf 12-year-old Robert Baker and 14-year-old Tayten Baker. He was dating their aunt when the boys were stabbed and bludgeoned in their home in Melrose.

Wilson’s attorney argued that he should get life in prison instead of death due to a history of his own child abuse and drug use. Circuit Judge Howard O. McGillin Jr. disagreed, and on Friday, sentenced him to death for killing both of the boys.

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The judge said Mark Wilson’s vicious murders of Tayten and Robert Baker — in addition to the mounting evidence that this was a calculated, cold and premeditated murder — was deserving of death.

Inside the courtroom, Tayten and Robert Baker’s family was on the right, and Wilson’s family was on the left. It was an emotional and tearful day as the judge recapped what he learned during the trial from testimony and evidence and why he decided to sentence Wilson to death.

“The evidence of torture and extreme cruelty and the murder of Tayten Baker is self-evident. The blood trail starts at the end of the pool table. There’s a large pool of blood in that area. It’s evident the assault commenced here. The blood trail extended around and under the leg at the end of the table, strongly suggesting that Tayten was trying to escape from the murderous assault. Tayten’s hand has a defensive wound consistent with the conscious attempts to defend himself from the knife. The blood trail there continues for several feet almost at the other end of the table where Tayten’s body was found. The trail strongly suggests he was crawling away from the assault. The handprint on the wall indicates that he is alive and again strongly suggests he was reaching from his cellphone, which was plugged in near the handprint,” the judge said. “Finally, the abrasion to his face revealed that when the assault occurred, he was face down as the defendant struck him over and over again.”

At one point during the sentencing, the Baker boys’ cousin, Kelli Cocco, leaned on the shoulder of the boys’ mother as the sentence was read.

On the other side of the courtroom, Wilson’s mother was emotional as she learned her son’s life will not be spared.

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After sentencing, Cocco spoke about how difficult life has been without her two cousins.

“I felt like that was the best thing that could’ve happened for the severity of our loss,” Cocco said. “It will never bring the boys back. I don’t think in a case like this there is real justice, but this is the best outcome that could happen for our family so now we can try to find a way to move one find a new normal.”

Cocco believes a death sentence is the closest the family can get to justice.

“We just want justice, you know, and I think this was about the best outcome that could have happened for Tayten and Robert. And you know, now that, you know, he’s going to be sentenced to death, you know, we can finally move on and remember them and the way that they were,” Cocco said. “No family should ever have to experience something this horrific and it’s just something that is going to haunt you for the rest of your life and the idea that your kid isn’t safe even in their own home while they are sleeping is something that’s really hard to deal with, but we just want justice.”

Robert and Tayten Baker (Kim Rigney/GoFundMe)

Seventh District State Attorney R.J. Larizza agreed with the death sentence.

“This was a brutal and vicious murder. The defendant showed the victims no mercy, and he didn’t get any mercy today,” Larizza said. “And I’m glad he didn’t because he didn’t deserve it.”

The Bakers boys’ family said they want to move forward by keeping the memory of Tayten and Robert Baker alive.

Wilson’s family did not comment.

News4JAX asked Wilson’s attorney if there is a plan to appeal but did not get confirmation.

About the Authors:

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

Veteran journalist and Emmy Award winning anchor