BREAKING NEWS: Kennedy Found Guilty of First Degree Murder
In addition to first-degree murder, Kennedy was also found guilty of second-degree murder, kidnapping, aggravated assault causing bodily injury, aggravated assault causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon, possession of an instrument of crime, possession of a prohibited offensive weapon, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with physical evidence.
He will be sentenced at 8:00 a.m. May 30 at the Venango County Courthouse by Venango County Judge Oliver Lobaugh.
“The jury did what it was supposed to do,” said Caitlin Lawrence, the victim’s sister.
“I’m also thankful for Shawn (Venango County District Attorney Shawn White). It was amazing the work he put into this case.”
Kennedy was found to have killed Baker the morning of October 27, 2017.
The case White laid out to the jury was that Kennedy and his then-girlfriend, Amanda Cypher, were at a residence at 1313 New Street in Franklin, Pa. Cypher testified against Kennedy at the trial after getting a plea deal from the Commonwealth.
Sometime after 8:00 a.m. on October 27, Tausha Baker came to the 1313 New Street house. Cypher said as she and Baker were entering the kitchen area, Kennedy attacked Baker with a frying pan beating her in the head. Cypher then said that Kennedy tied Baker up and made her call Greg Militello to procure more drugs and possibly money. Cypher then went to Militello’s to get the drugs. When she returned, Kennedy brought Baker, who Cypher said was still alive at the time, out to a Ford Edge owned by Militello. who during testimony told the jury he was selling crack. The Ford Edge was driven to 1313 New Street by Baker.
With Cypher driving and Kennedy riding in the backseat with Baker, Baker was taken to a spot on Waterworks Road. At that point, Cypher testified that she saw Kennedy stab Baker multiple times in the upper torso area. After stabbing Baker, Cypher said Kennedy then dropped a basketball-size rock on Baker before dumping Baker’s body over a hillside in a dump area.
The couple then drove towards Franklin stopping at Pioneer Cemetery where they hid some of their clothes, and Kennedy threw the knife into the river, according to Cypher. Cypher then said Kennedy stole a gas can and ordered her to drive back to the site where Baker’s body had been dumped. Once back at the site, Cypher said Kennedy lit the body of fire.
The duo then returned to Franklin and visited a couple of difference locations including the house of Penny McCoy, where police found Kennedy’s Air Jordan sneakers hidden in an attic, a house owned by Tausha Baker’s father, Doug Baker, where Tausha Baker was living at the time of her death and where Militello was also staying in the basement, and then back to the 1313 New Street house.
Eventually, around 4:30 p.m., Kennedy and Cypher went back to the Waterworks Road site, and Cypher said Kennedy lit Baker’s body on fire again. The body was discovered a short time later by Polk firefighters who had been called to a scene of a suspected brush fire.
After burning Baker’s body a second time, Kennedy and Cypher returned to Franklin and were spotted by the residents of the 1313 New Street House, who had called police around 4:00 p.m. to report Baker as missing. While Cypher didn’t try to flee police, Kennedy evaded police until he was captured around 7:00 p.m. in the Arbor Circle area.
Neither Cypher nor Kennedy admitted to the killing of Baker during questioning by police on October 27 and October 28, 2017, but on December 22, 2017, Cypher asked to speak to the police. That is when she laid out most of the above story, which pretty much matched what she told the jury during the trial.
The prosecution also called Joseph Ibarra, who was a cellmate of Kennedy’s at the Venango County jail, and Ibarra testified that Kennedy had told him that he (Kennedy) had killed Baker.
Defense attorney’s Robert Kinnear and James Miller tried to argue that Cypher and not Kennedy was the real killer and hinged their case on the fact that the Commonwealth had sent neither the frying pan nor the rock away for DNA testing.
But, the testimony of both Cypher and Ibarra coupled with testimony from Militello, William Umstead, who was the primary renter of the 1313 New Street house, and Mark Daniels, who lived at 1313 New Street at the time of the murder, coupled with DNA evidence linking Kennedy to Baker and video evidence that collaborated other testimony about the whereabouts of both Kennedy and Cypher seemingly was enough to convince the jury in short order, as the jury took the case at 12:43 p.m. and said they had a verdict at approximately 3:30 p.m. That verdict was then delivered to the defendant by jury foreman John Martin at a little after 4:00 p.m.
As each count of guilty was read, Baker’s family and friends could be seen crying and hugging.
“This was a long trial,” Judge Lobaugh told the jury before discharging them. “You folks have done your civic duty with patience and great concentration.”
While Kennedy’s back was to the majority of the courtroom when the verdict was read, there was no visible reaction on his face when he came in front of Lobaugh after the jury had been discharged.
Kennedy will most likely remain in the Venango County jail until his sentencing.
Neither White, Kinnear, or Kinnear’s fellow defense attorney could comment on the jury’s decision, as they are still under a “gag order” that was issued by Lobaugh concerning the case.
All definitions are based on what Lobaugh told the jury and may not be completely what was said but are intended to give the reader a better understanding of each charge.
COUNT ONE: FIRST-DEGREE MURDER
Specific intent to kill – The defendant specifically intended to kill with malice and was conscious of his own intentions. No planning or thought is needed in advance. It can happen quickly, but the defendant had enough time to fully form intent and consciousness.
COUNT TWO: SECOND-DEGREE MURDER
Also known as felony murder, it’s killing in connection with a felony – in this case, both kidnapping and the two counts of aggravated assault. There need not be an intention to kill the victim, and the victim need not die immediately.
COUNT FOUR: AGGRAVATED ASSAULT CAUSING SERIOUS BODILY INJURY
The defendant caused serious bodily injury with a marked indifference to human life, and the action was intentional, knowing and reckless.
COUNT FIVE: AGGRAVATED ASSAULT CAUSING SERIOUS BODILY INJURY WITH A DEADLY WEAPON
The same as count four but causing said injuries with a deadly weapon.
COUNT SIX: KIDNAPPING
It can happen in one of two ways. One way is if a person unlawfully removes another person a substantial distance “under circumstances” from the place where he or she was located. The second way is if a person unlawfully confines another person for a “substantial” period of time in a place of “isolation.” Lobaugh, on request from counsel, said that the person had to be alive when they were either removed or confined.
COUNT SEVEN: POSSESSING AN INSTRUMENT OF CRIME
An instrument or object that is commonly used to commit a crime. In this case, Lobaugh specifically said the knife used to stab Baker and metal knuckles that Kennedy was said to be in possession of were examples of instruments of crime.
COUNT EIGHT: POSSESSING A PROHIBITED OFFENSIVE WEAPON
Metal knuckles are illegal to possess in Pennsylvania, according to Lobaugh.
COUNT NINE: ABUSE OF A CORPSE
Treating a corpse in a way that would outrage family sensibilities.
COUNT TEN: TAMPERING WITH PHYSICAL EVIDENCE
Lobaugh used the examples of hiding clothing and disposing of the bodies as ways that evidence can be tampered with.
Editor’s Note: Count three, third-degree murder, didn’t have to be voted on by the jury because they found Kennedy guilty of first-degree murder. If they had found Kennedy not guilty of first-degree murder then they would have had to vote on third-degree murder, which is the killing of a person with malice
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