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Accomplice pleads guilty in Duluth murder

Noah Duane Baker

Plans were in place to rob William Grahek of drugs and cash a month before the attempted heist resulted in the Duluth college student's death, an accomplice admitted Friday afternoon.

Noah Duane Baker, 20, pleaded guilty to an intentional second-degree murder charge in the February 2017 shooting death at Grahek's East Hillside residence.

Baker, the first of five defendants in the case to admit guilt, testified that his sister's boyfriend, Deandre Demetrius Davenport, fired two rounds at Grahek after the 22-year-old victim refused to turn over a safe during the home invasion.

"He kept walking toward us and then got shot," Baker testified at the hastily scheduled plea hearing in State District Court in Duluth.

Defense attorney Keith Shaw told Judge Mark Munger that his client agreed to receive a 30-year prison sentence under a plea agreement with the St. Louis County Attorney's Office.

Baker also agreed to give a statement to law enforcement in exchange for prosecutors dismissing two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree aggravated robbery.

Under questioning from prosecutor Jessica Fralich, Baker gave an account largely consistent with that of authorities over the past year — with the notable exception of denying allegations that his sister served as a getaway driver.

Baker testified that he, Davenport and their friend Noah Anthony Charles King frequently burglarized homes together. He said it was in January 2017 that Davenport told him about Grahek's stash and they made plans to rob him.

Fralich asked Baker what specifically he was told.

"That dude had money and a lot of drugs," he testified, adding that it was marijuana and the party drug "Molly," or MDMA, that Grahek possessed.

Baker testified that he and Davenport left their shared residence at 1802 E. Third St. to meet up with King at his house, 513 E. 10th St., on the afternoon of Feb. 14. He said they drove the Jeep belonging to his sister, Tara Rai Baker, but that she did not join them.

Baker told the court that the three of them changed into all-black clothing at King's house and walked across the alley to Grahek's home, 510 E. 11th St., where they kicked in the door. Davenport and Baker both carried pistols; King was armed with a wrench "for the dog."

Baker testified that they encountered Grahek and both he and Davenport produced their Glock firearms. Fralich asked how Grahek responded.

"He said no," Baker testified.

As Grahek approached the group, Baker said he saw Davenport fire the gun once. Baker said he was running back to the Jeep when he heard a second shot. Authorities have said Grahek was hit in the chest and the mouth.

Baker said the trio went back to his residence, removing the black clothing along the way as Davenport drove. He said his sister later gave King a ride home.

Baker testified that Davenport also called Xavier Alfred Haywood, the man who originally provided the information on Grahek, to report that "it didn't go the way we wanted it to go." Baker said Haywood, who often sold him marijuana, then arranged a hotel room for them in Superior.

Baker also testified that he burned the clothing worn by the three men during the incident. He said the gun he was carrying belonged to Haywood. Davenport was carrying his own firearm but sold it a day or two later, he testified.

Munger accepted the factual basis for Baker's plea and scheduled sentencing for May 24. Outside the courtroom, both Shaw and Fralich said they would defer comment until that time.

Munger last month declined motions to dismiss the grand jury indictments charging Baker, Davenport and King with first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence if convicted.

Davenport, 22, and King, 19, are scheduled to be back in court on April 27. Trial dates have not been set, and they can still raise other constitutional challenges or bring various motions.

The 27-year-old Haywood, who is charged with aiding an offender, is set to appear for a settlement conference on April 26.

Tara Baker, 23, faces the case's first trial, on charges of aiding and abetting intentional second-degree murder and attempted first-degree aggravated robbery. She earlier waived her right to a jury and will proceed to a court trial before Munger beginning May 22.