MILWAUKEE - A 16-year-old boy charged as an adult in connection to two separate homicides, minutes apart earlier this year, remains in custody following a hearing before a juvenile court judge.
Quenterrius M. Hamilton appeared by video before Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Audrey Skwierawski Tuesday, June 29. His bond was set at $250,000 in that case.
Hamilton was charged Monday with felony murder-armed robbery as a party to a crime in the May 2 shooting death of Kalysta Baker, 19, of Sheboygan; and first-degree reckless homicide, use of a dangerous weapon, in the shooting death of his friend and neighbor, 15-year-old Jacob D. Howard, less than a half-hour later. Howard, a Homestead sophomore, is also suspected of being involved in the death of Baker.
"It’s two separate homicides that happened within an hour of one another. One, a woman who’s been communicating with the defendant – the juvenile’s – cellphone, setting up a pill deal, appears to go to that pill deal and is shot with a rifle, three times, killing her," said Assistant District Attorney Mike Schindhelm.
"A short time later, in a different alley, the person we believe is the co-actor in the first incident is shot and killed. The defendant’s phone places him on scene in both of those instances. And it’s my understanding it’s the same phone he’s caught with when he’s apprehended in this case."
Prosecutors said Hamilton – who has a separate juvenile weapons possession and resisting case stemming from his arrest on the felony charges – was out on supervision at the time of the homicides following a prior juvenile case involving possession of a dangerous weapon.
"Here we have two, very, very serious allegations," said Skwierawski, who agreed with the state’s recommendation on bail. "I have concern about you following the court’s orders, since you were on supervision; you had court orders in place when these allegations arose."
Hamilton said little and showed no visible reaction as Sksierawski detailed that if convicted on both adult counts, it could effectively mean a life sentence in prison. If convicted on the charge in Baker's death, he faces a maximum of roughly 41 years in prison and a maximum of 45 years in Howard's death.
Kalysta Baker with niece
After the hearing, Baker’s mother said she’s still at a loss for words.
"She was murdered, senselessly," said Tanya Baker when reached by phone, noting her daughter was killed less than two weeks from her 20th birthday.
"Kalysta was a loving compassionate young woman who loved everyone. And trusted too easily."
Originally from Colorado, Baker said she and her daughter moved to Sheboygan two years ago to be closer to her mother, Kalysta’s grandmother. Kalysta graduated from Sheboygan North High School last year and was the middle child, with an older and younger sister, and had moved to Milwaukee because she loved the city.
"She is missed by so many people. She has family here in Wisconsin, Colorado and in Connecticut, and everyone is heartbroken by this senseless act. My daughter was an innocent victim in these two boy's plot to break the law."
Kalysta Baker (R) with siblings
When Baker learned that a 16-year-old was arrested and charged with her daughter’s death, Baker said her thoughts also went to Hamilton’s family.
"Unimaginable – I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone," said Baker. "My heart immediately went out to his mother."
Court filings allege that a four-door Kia Forte reported stolen on April 29 from the area of 41st and Fond du Lac matches a four-door sedan seen in both shootings. Howard’s sister also told investigators she last saw her brother at their home the afternoon of May 1, waiting for Hamilton as they were going to ride around in a "stoley." Howard lived two doors down from Hamilton.
Howard’s mother was shown surveillance video of the vehicle theft and identified the person wearing a red sweatshirt as her son. Howard’s brother told investigators his AR-15 rifle was missing and believed his brother had taken it. Hamilton later told investigators that he and Howard were hanging out near their homes the morning of the homicides and Howard was showing off his brother’s rifle.
Police say shell casings recovered at both crime scenes match the caliber of the rifle.
Court filings say Hamilton admitted he was messaging with Baker – who family said was visiting her boyfriend – about purchasing $400 worth of Xanax pills from her, but he and Howard didn’t have the money, yet set up the transaction anyway with the intent of robbing Baker.
Police were called to the area of 92nd and Sheridan for a shooting shortly before 5 a.m. Sunday, May 2. Baker was found dead, lying in the street with gunshot wounds to her stomach and head. Three rifle casings were recovered.
Filings say a neighbor heard 3-4 gunshots at around 4:50 a.m., looked out his window and saw a male getting in the front passenger seat of a four-door sedan that then drove away. The witness said he saw something large on the ground, and thought it was a bag of garbage – until the fire department arrived, the lights illuminating what it was: a body.
Surveillance video from the area showed a four-door sedan park on Sheridan Avenue at around 4:41 a.m. Court filings say Baker walks up to the rear of the car about 15 minutes later. A person gets out of the passenger side and approaches Baker, who then falls to the ground. The person then gets closer to Baker, bends down and then moves away slightly. The woman sits up and then goes back down to the ground. The car drives away about a minute later.
A review of Baker’s Facebook account showed that she had been messaging with Hamilton about selling him Xanax throughout the day of May 1. The complaint says cellphone data and call records put Hamilton’s cellphone in the area at the time of the shooting, as well as the area where Howard’s body was later found.
Less than a half-hour after Baker was shot, police responded to the area of 39th and Sercombe for a shooting call. Officers found Howard’s body nearby, lying face down, pulseless and not breathing in the alley behind a home 37th and Marion. Police also recovered three rifle casings from the scene.
Surveillance video from nearby Samuel Clemens School showed a four-door car stop in the alley at 5:16 a.m. and two people get out, one from the driver’s seat, Howard from the passenger seat. About two minutes later, the complaint notes the passenger – who is shorter than the driver – starts backing up, and then falls to the ground. The driver then moves closer and stands over Howard, briefly, before getting in and driving away.
Court documents say Hamilton confirmed to police he had his phone on him that night and told police he and Howard parted ways and Hamilton then went to his girlfriend’s house. However, when confronted with the evidence placing his phone at both crime scenes, Hamilton said he lost his cellphone or forgot it in the car.
Milwaukee County Courthouse
Despite being 16-years-old, adult criminal court has jurisdiction over certain offenses when involving a juvenile, such as homicides. However, cases may be transferred to juvenile court under certain circumstances, called a "reverse waiver."
Assistant State Public Defender William Hotchkiss and Robin Dorman, the regional manager for the State Public Defender’s Office Milwaukee juvenile and mental health division, declined to make bail arguments during the hearing, and requested a reverse waiver hearing be scheduled, adding that counsel will be appointed in the near future.
Hamilton remains in juvenile custody and is scheduled to appear before Skwierawski on Aug. 3 for a preliminary hearing. A date for a reverse waiver hearing has not yet been set.