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Dewayne Baker stood up in Catawba County Courtroom No. 2 on Tuesday and faced his sonâ€™s murderer.
Holding two sheets of notebook paper scribbled with red ink, he locked eyes with John Lee Mitchell, the 48-year-old man who shot his son, Travis, to death more than four years ago.
â€śMr. Mitchell, I stand here today to speak for someone that canâ€™t,â€ť Baker said, continuing to speak about his sonâ€™s loving personality as a brother, uncle, grandson and father. â€śYou shot our son to deathâ€¦Our life will never be the same.â€ť
Mitchell pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and two other charges on Tuesday in Catawba County court, giving closure to a case more than four years old.
He will serve at least 12 years in prison.
â€śIn the courtroom today is a handful of people and loved ones that are left to suffer the pain caused by you and you alone,â€ť Baker said. â€śWhat grieves me more is to watch my wife and mother and her heart being ripped apart, knowing each day she is robbed of the joys and memories that could have been filled that you destroyedâ€¦There will be no mercy for you where you are going.â€ť
According to investigators and testimony presented on Tuesday, Mitchell shot and killed Travis Baker on April 16, 2007 after a fight escalated between the two at his home.
Mitchell, who lived on Oxford School Road, hid Travisâ€™ body under a pile of wood near Eulalia Lane in Catawba.
Mitchell fled to Florida, and Travisâ€™ body was not found for more than two years â€” causing what his family called â€śmany sleepless nightsâ€ť and â€śsuffering.â€ť
On June 24, 2009, investigators recovered Travisâ€™ decomposing body, and Mitchell was arrested the same day.
After originally being charged with first-degree murder, the local district attorneyâ€™s office offered Mitchell a plea deal. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and concealing a body.
The Baker family is not completely satisfied with the deal, but they are happy Mitchell will serve time.
â€śI donâ€™t agree with it, but it is what it is,â€ť said Jerry Sigmon, Travisâ€™ godfather, about the plea agreement.
Sigmon also addressed Mitchell, and the court, on Tuesday.
â€śOnly you know what happened that day â€” you had two years and two months to get your story straight,â€ť Sigmon said. â€śYou donâ€™t kill a 19-year-old boy and then sell his car parts in Florida.â€ť
After hearing from Baker and Sigmon, Mitchell â€” unemotional during the hearing â€” addressed the family.
â€śI truly am sorry â€” truly,â€ť he said.
After the plea, the Baker family spoke to the media outside the courtroom.
Patricia Baker, who did not wish to address the court during the plea, had little to say.
â€śI donâ€™t want to waste my breath on him,â€ť she said, adding she does not believe Mitchellâ€™s account of the story. â€śThatâ€™s not my son.â€ť