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Co-defendant changes story on witness stand says he killed college student in Duluth

Noah Anthony Charles King Photo courtesy of St. Louis County Sheriff's Department 1 / 2
Noah Duane Baker Photo courtesy of St. Louis County Sheriff's Department2 / 2

DULUTH -- A co-defendant took the witness stand in a Duluth murder trial Tuesday, Nov. 13,  to claim that he was solely responsible for the death of William Grahek.

Noah Duane Baker, who is already serving a 30-year prison sentence for his role in the case, made the dramatic assertion on the fifth day of trial for his friend, Noah Anthony Charles King.

“I went there alone,” he testified.

The claim stood in stark contrast to Baker’s testimony at his own plea hearing in April, when the 21-year-old stated that he went to the victim’s home with King, 20, and Deandre Demetrius Davenport, who has long been accused of firing the two shots that killed Grahek.

The change in his story apparently was not unexpected, as prosecutors granted him immunity against perjury charges for agreeing to answer questions under oath that conflicted with his earlier sworn statements. But how the testimony fits into the prosecution’s case against King was not immediately clear.

His sister, Tara Rai Baker, also took the stand Tuesday, seemingly declaring all three men should face legal consequences for Grahek’s death. And the court heard King’s statements to police, in which he strongly denied any involvement or knowledge of Grahek’s death.

Shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit, Noah Baker was fidgety but frequently smiling as he testified.

He told the court that he learned from co-defendant Xavier Alfred Haywood that a college student living across the alley from King had a supply of marijuana, the party drug molly and cash.

“We heard that dude had a bunch of stuff and we wanted to go take it from him,” he testified.

Baker said he and Davenport left their shared residence on Valentine’s Day 2017 and went to visit King, who he described as a “brother” — though they are not blood-related.

Baker claimed the three of them went somewhere, though he could not recall where, and then returned. He said they parked his sister’s vehicle a block or two away because “I knew what I went there to do.”

Baker said all three then left the residence again, but that only he went to Grahek’s house. Contradicting his earlier testimony, he said he was the only one armed with a handgun.

“You’re saying you committed this attempted robbery of Mr. Grahek all by yourself?” prosecutor Jessica Fralich asked.

“Yes, I am,” Baker replied.

“You’re saying Mr. King and Mr. Davenport didn’t have anything to do with it?” the prosecutor asked.

“Yes, I am,” he said.

Baker was not asked to further elaborate on the interaction with Grahek. He earlier testified that the three of them demanded a safe containing the drugs and that Davenport shot him when he refused their demands and advanced toward the trio.

In his Tuesday testimony, he said the three of them got in the car and left. He said he then had his sister give King a ride home.

Baker testified that the rest of them then went to a hotel room in Superior. The next day, he said, he met up with Haywood and went to Morgan Park to burn clothing and other evidence.

On further questioning from Fralich, Baker acknowledged feeling a sense of loyalty to King. The prosecutor also admitted into evidence a letter Baker wrote to King after their arrests saying he didn’t have to worry because Davenport was “going to take care of it.”

Defense attorney Steve Bergeson did not ask any questions of Baker.

Sister takes the stand

Earlier in the day, Tara Rai Baker took a stand to offer her account. She is the only other defendant to plead guilty to this point, serving a probationary sentence for lying to police.

She recalled her brother, boyfriend and King arriving at the residence appearing “a little nervous.” She said her brother mentioned that they had just tried to rob somebody, but “it didn't go as they thought it would.”

Baker said she did not learn about Grahek’s death until she saw it on the news later that evening at the hotel. She asked her brother and boyfriend about it, but they again didn’t want to talk about it.

Baker, however, testified that she was instructed by her brother and King to lie if questioned by police. She further acknowledged telling Davenport in a later recorded jail phone call that her brother should not have to “go down alone.”

“They should all be held responsible,” she testified, paraphrasing that conversation. “It's unfair for just my brother to get in trouble … because if all of them were there they should all get in trouble.”

Other witnesses testify

Also Tuesday, prosecutors moved to tie the defendants to the alleged murder weapon.

The Glock handgun was recovered in March 2017 from the residence of a man in Davenport’s hometown of Austin, Minn., according to police officials. Investigators said the same man was seen on surveillance video visiting the Superior hotel room a day after Grahek’s death, and that a review of cellphone location data confirmed his travel to and from Duluth-Superior.

The court also viewed video of King’s statement to police in the hours after Grahek’s death. He claimed to go to an appointment early in the morning before spending the rest of the day at home with his stepmother and girlfriend.

Investigators, however, pressed him on the fact that a K-9 had tracked a scent between the two residences, as well as the fact that footprints matching a pair of shoes recovered from his home here discovered in the snow outside.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” King is heard repeatedly declaring in the interview.

Testimony in the case will resume Wednesday.

King is one of five defendants to face charges and is the first to go to trial.

King, 20, is accused of accompanying two other men during an attempted robbery of drugs and cash from Grahek's East Hillside residence.

Prosecutors have alleged that King, Davenport and Noah Duane Baker went to the residence based on information provided by co-defendant Xavier Alfred Haywood. Defense attorneys have framed Grahek’s death as an unintentional act.

King is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count each of intentional second-degree murder and attempted first-degree aggravated robbery. If convicted on either murder charge, he would face a mandatory life sentence with potential for parole only after 30 years.

King waived his right to a jury, so the case is being heard by 6th Judicial District Judge Mark Munger. Testimony is expected to conclude by Friday, after which Munger will have up to a week to issue a verdict.