Something went terribly wrong in a Spring Hill apartment an evening in July.
An Akron man was shot and died in a pool of his own blood. His girlfriend climbed from her balcony to other ninth-floor balconies to escape. The man who fired the fatal shot ran from the apartment and down the steps.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agree on these facts involving the July 13 shooting death of D’Andre Pete, 23. They disagree, however, about what led to the incident and whether Kennae Baker is guilty of murder.
Assistant Prosecutor Ty Graham said in his opening statement in Baker’s murder trial Monday that Baker went to Pete’s apartment on the pretense of buying marijuana from him but instead robbed and shot him.
John Greven, one of Baker’s defense attorneys, said Baker was selling drugs for Pete and shot him because he feared Pete was about to kill him. He said Pete thought Baker had shorted him money and had threatened to kill him if he ever did.
“My client had a reasonable fear for his life,” Greven said.
Baker, 20, is charged with two counts each of aggravated murder, murder and aggravated burglary; three counts of felonious assault; and one count each of aggravated robbery and theft. Several of the charges include gun specifications that carry with them additional prison time.
This is the third time in the past month that a defendant has claimed self-defense in a murder trial in Summit County, with the other two cases resulting in convictions. A new state law recently kicked in that put the burden on prosecutors to prove that deadly force wasn’t warranted.
Pete’s death was part of a rash of shootings in Akron during a two-week period last July that claimed six lives.
Pete’s shooting happened about 5 p.m., shortly after Jenna Smith, Pete’s girlfriend, got home from work.
Graham said Smith was lying on an ottoman when Baker, whom she knew, came to the apartment. He said Smith heard Baker say, “Give me all you’ve got.” Then, a shot rang out and the glass table by Smith and sliding glass door shattered. Smith jumped through the shattered door onto the balcony and heard another shot.
“She thinks, ‘He’s trying to kill me,’ ” Graham said.
Graham said Smith climbed from her balcony to other balconies until she found an open door, then ran through this apartment and down the stairs.
Graham said much of what happened before and after the shooting was captured on surveillance cameras but there are no cameras inside the apartments, so the shooting isn’t on video.
Greven, who is representing Baker with attorney Joe Gorman, said Baker was selling marijuana for Pete, who was a known pot dealer in the Spring Hill apartments. He said Pete showed Baker a gun last spring and told him, “If you ever screw me, I’ll take care of you.”
On the day of the shooting, Greven said Baker sold a large quantity of pot for Pete and went to Pete’s apartment to give him the money. He said Pete, though, thought Baker wasn’t giving him what he was owed and punched him several times, then backed up and reached for something. He said Baker assumed Pete was reaching for his gun and fired his own weapon, shooting Pete.
Both Smith and Baker are expected to testify in the trial in Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty’s courtroom, which is expected to last through Thursday.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter@swarsmithabj.