Dallas County jurors began hearing testimony Monday to help them decide the fate of a man who was 16 when, prosecutors say, he killed a woman near the driveway of her home — a slaying authorities allege was part of a crime spree.
Anthony Jermaine Lewis, now 20, is accused of fatally shooting 59-year-old Leslie Squair Baker during a robbery. Her husband found Baker wounded in the driver’s seat of a car on Memorial Day 2020. Lewis was arrested days after the shooting and later a juvenile court judge certified him to stand trial as an adult.
If convicted, he faces an automatic life sentence. Capital murder convictions typically do not offer the possibility of parole, but because he was a minor at the time of the slaying, Lewis would be eligible after 40 years. Texas’ criminal justice system considers people to be adults at age 17.
Dallas County prosecutor Thomas Adams told the jury during opening statements that Baker was killed “as she sat in her car doing nothing wrong.” He said they would see a story similar to TV shows like “CSI and Dateline,” and that evidence would connect Lewis to carjackings, robberies and gunfire the same month as the slaying.
Defense attorney Danielle Uher told jurors evidence against Lewis involved other “boys” he was friends with and “it is just more than Anthony at almost every single opportunity.”
”They were all hanging out and they were committing crime together,” Uher said. “But what you’re not going to hear, what the state is not going to have any evidence of, at all, is that Anthony Lewis intended to cause the death of Leslie Baker.”
Two other defendants — 22-year-old Deng Chan Ajack and 21-year-old Antony Isaiah Taylor — were both arrested on capital murder charges in June 2020 and remain at the Dallas County jail, records show. Ajack was 19 at the time of the slaying and Taylor was 18. Their trials are pending.
On Monday, the jury heard 911 calls, saw body-camera footage from a Dallas police officer and viewed crime scene photographs taken after the killing. A photo of Baker smiling with her husband, daughter and son was displayed in court. She was director of marketing at the Texas Health Center for Diagnostics and Surgery.
Melanie Rasansky was the first witness for prosecutors and she called Baker a dear friend and described her as beautiful, smart and kind.
“I always say there’s good people and there’s great people, and Leslie is one of the great people,” Rasansky said.
She testified they were on the phone when Baker was killed.
On May 25, 2020, near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Baker had dropped off a birthday present for her on the porch, Rasansky said. Apple raisin bread. She called Baker to thank her.
They were talking and laughing together. Then, Rasansky heard Baker say, “Stop it. I think I’m being robbed.” Baker screamed.
Baker’s husband, Robert Baker, tearfully recalled the day his wife was fatally shot after over 25 years of marriage. He was at home when he heard a “Pop! Pop!” The sound caught his attention, but he was confused, he told jurors. He thought maybe it was noise from construction.
Then, Robert Baker said, he heard more pops. When he went to a window to look, he saw a silver vehicle “fly” through an intersection near their home in the 6100 block of Royalton Drive, northeast of Royal Lane and Preston Road. He went outside and found his wife’s car stopped at an unusual angle. It was still running and the back window was shot out.
”Hurry. Hurry. She’s still alive,” he said in a 911 call played for jurors. “What the hell is going on?”
Baker said his wife couldn’t speak to him.
Leslie Baker was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead a half-hour later, authorities have said.
Police wrote in an arrest-warrant affidavit that surveillance video showed a silver car pulled into Baker’s driveway and blocked her in. The vehicle then sped off, drove through a toll station on the Dallas North Tollway and eventually stopped in Far East Dallas where surveillance cameras captured video of three males getting out, the affidavit said.
Detectives determined the car was stolen earlier that month in a carjacking in southeast Oak Cliff, according to the affidavit.
About five hours after Baker was killed, a Lyft driver was dropping off passengers along East R.L. Thornton Freeway in Far East Dallas when a silver Nissan drove past and someone inside shot at his vehicle. The Lyft driver later identified Taylor as the gunman, police said, and authorities wrote in an affidavit that ballistic evidence showed that the same gun was used in both shootings.
The following night, Richardson police have said, Lewis carjacked a driver at gunpoint.
A day later, police in Dallas got into a high-speed chase with that vehicle, eventually leading to Lewis’ arrest in a shed in the RedBird area, police have said. Police said they recovered two handguns, including the one that killed Baker.