Victim's family shares suffering

Dewayne Baker stood up in Catawba County Courtroom No. 2 on Tuesday and faced his son’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.

“Mr. Mitchell, I stand here today to speak for someone that can’t,” Baker said, continuing to speak about his son’s loving personality as a brother, uncle, grandson and father. “You shot our son to death…Our life will never be the same.”

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.

“In the courtroom today is a handful of people and loved ones that are left to suffer the pain caused by you and you alone,” Baker said. “What 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 destroyed…There will be no mercy for you where you are going.”

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 Travis’ body under a pile of wood near Eulalia Lane in Catawba.

Mitchell fled to Florida, and Travis’ body was not found for more than two years — causing what his family called “many sleepless nights” and “suffering.”

On June 24, 2009, investigators recovered Travis’ decomposing body, and Mitchell was arrested the same day.

After originally being charged with first-degree murder, the local district attorney’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.

“I don’t agree with it, but it is what it is,” said Jerry Sigmon, Travis’ godfather, about the plea agreement.

Sigmon also addressed Mitchell, and the court, on Tuesday.

“Only you know what happened that day — you had two years and two months to get your story straight,” Sigmon said. “You don’t kill a 19-year-old boy and then sell his car parts in Florida.”

After hearing from Baker and Sigmon, Mitchell — unemotional during the hearing — addressed the family.

“I truly am sorry — truly,” 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.

“I don’t want to waste my breath on him,” she said, adding she does not believe Mitchell’s account of the story. “That’s not my son.”