On March 5 1996, Baker got into a fight with her grandmother and was looking for a way to get to a friend’s house. She was last seen walking from her grandmother’s house to a convenience store where she tried to call her mother. Her body would be found dumped under a Trinity River bridge later that night. She had been raped before she was strangled to death.
Her murder remained unsolved for 14 years until a Chambers County sheriff’s officer took her dress and resubmitted it for analysis using current technology. A semen stain was found, and the resulting DNA recovered was matched to a DNA sample Smith had submitted after a minor drug arrest in 2010.
After his arrest, Smith admitted on videotape that he gave Baker a ride, then choked her with a leather strap when she “started freaking out on me.”
Smith did not take the stand during his trial, but was defiant in the courtroom regarding the evidence suggesting sexual assault. He called out several times, “I didn’t do that! I didn’t do it like he said I did!”
He also cried as the verdict was read and commented several times that he couldn’t understand why Smith has filed an appeal but will have to find another lawyer because his defense lawyer, Stephen Christopher Taylor, no longer wants anything to do with him.
Judge Carroll E. Willborn Jr. sentenced Smith to 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole. He was not eligible for the death penalty because it had been placed on a moratorium at the time of Baker’s murder.
Investigators plan on questioning Smith about the “Killing Fields,” A name given to an area of I-45 between Houston and Galveston where dozens of girls and young women vanished, beginning in the 70s, and where the nude bodies of four women were found between 1984 and 1997. These unsolved murders were also the subject of a recent movie.