Wiggins has pleaded not guilty to all charges, foremost among them premeditated first-degree murder. Other charges include “false report,” “theft of property,” “criminal impersonation of law enforcement,” “tampering with evidence,” “arson,” and “abuse of the courts.” The charges stem from Wiggins having shot the 32-year-old Baker four times and incinerated his body after the sheriff’s deputy attempted to apprehend the defendant for an alleged car theft.
Judge David D. Wolfe of the 23rd Judicial District advised the jury that they will be sequestered for the duration of the case, which is expected to last several weeks.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Luke Evans said that there is no dispute about the fact that Wiggins shot Baker dead and that the question of guilt hinges only on Wiggins’s mental state at the time of the shooting.
“There’s no question that on May 30, 2018, Steven Wiggins killed Sgt. Daniel Baker,” Evans told the jury. “He did so without excuse, without justification … The only question that you as a jury may have … is whether or not, in that moment, Steven Wiggins used reflection and judgement.”
According to prosecutor Ray Crouch’s statement, Baker responded to a call regarding a suspicious vehicle stopped on a road. Baker ordered Wiggins out of the car, though the suspect kept telling the officer that his door wouldn’t open. The prosecution asserts that the door was fully operational.
Baker was described as having then walked around to the passenger side, after which the defendant took out a semiautomatic pistol and shot the sergeant through the passenger side window. Baker ran away from the window and uttered to the sheriff’s headquarters his final words: “Shots fired. Officer down.”
The prosecution further discussed evidence that Wiggins, while in possession of Baker’s patrol vehicle and Baker’s body, allegedly used the officer’s radio and phone to answer calls from law-enforcement personnel, all the while pretending to be Baker. Wiggins was then described as having driven several miles away from the site of the sergeant’s death, stolen the officer’s Glock .357, and set fire to the patrol vehicle with Baker in it.
Wiggins, after his arrest, submitted to what Crouch characterized as a voluntary police interview after which, Crouch said, Wiggins was asked why he shot the sergeant in the head. “It’s like a dog,” Crouch quoted the defendant. “You don’t let it suffer.”
Baker’s widow Lisa was the first witness to take the stand. As part of her testimony, the prosecution played a video of Daniel Baker receiving his Glock .357 backup weapon as a Christmas gift from Lisa.
The Bakers have a five-year-old daughter who was 22 months old at the time of the sergeant’s killing.
Erika Castro Miles, who is alleged to have accompanied Wiggins at the crime scene, also faces charges for Baker’s killing and is to be tried subsequently.
If convicted, Wiggins could receive a death sentence. In 2019, Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a law expediting capital-punishment appeals, named the Sergeant Daniel Baker Act in honor of the deceased.
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Bradley Vasoli is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Dickson County Courthouse” by Brian Stansberry CC BY 3.0.