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December 21, 2014

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Teens testify against suspects in murder case

The teen accused of shooting his friend and fellow Silverado High School student Jared Whaley in the head and stomach regularly visited Whaley's mother and grandmother after Whaley disappeared last October, a Silverado High School junior testified Thursday.

Matthew Baker, 18, kept in touch with Whaley's mother to see "if she had heard anything," the female junior said during what was the third day of preliminary hearings in Boulder City Municipal Court.

And when Whaley's body was found and positively identified, Baker visited Whaley's mother and grandmother to find out details about the condition of the body, how police thought Whaley was killed and if they had any leads on who killed him, said the junior, who testified she went with Baker to both women's homes.

In asking about the body's condition, the junior said Baker told Whaley's grandmother that "a shot in the head decomposes the body faster."

The junior also testified that Baker told her "people might want to put a hit on Jared" because he messed up their dealings of methamphetamine.

Baker's statements, actions and stories his co-defendants shared about beating up a kid named Jamal and digging graves in the desert eventually prompted the junior to confront Baker about Whaley's murder, she testified.

"I told Matt Baker, 'I know you did it, just admit it,' " the junior testified on the stand.

"And Matt Baker said, 'Jared is my friend, why would he (I) do that?' "

The Silverado junior was one of seven teens who testified as corroborating witnesses to the state's case against Baker and co-defendants Stephen Stringfield, 19, and Shane and Cody Myers, both 18. Two other co-defendants, Shane Johnson, 17, and Gerald Wilks, 20, entered guilty plea agreements with prosecutors and testified against their friends in the first session of the preliminary hearing two weeks ago.

Most of the teens' testimonies focused on statements Baker had made, including confirming that Baker had showed them a nicotine poison concoction or had told them eye drops can be used to either kill someone or give them diarrhea. One teen said Baker had told her he planned to use the eye drops as a prank on Whaley, another said he planned to use the nicotine on another male friend because he wanted that friend's girlfriend.

Wilks and Johnson both have testified that Baker tried to poison Whaley first before Baker, Johnson, and the Myers brothers took Whaley out to the dry lake off U.S. 95, just south of U.S. 93 to kill him. Whaley's badly decomposed body was found naked with a gunshot wound in the head and stomach in a shallow grave.

One female teenager, who does not attend Silverado and did not know Baker, said she met Baker at the home of a mutual friend within a couple of days of Whaley's disappearance.

"Matt Baker said somebody probably took him out in the desert and killed him," the teenager testified.

When she asked Baker why, Baker said it was because Whaley was "loud and annoying," the teenager said.

Baker then said "he deserved it or he would have deserved it -- I'm not sure of the tense," the teenager testified.

Another teenager, a Silverado sophomore, testified Matt Baker told her "Jared's gone, he's left, and he's not coming back."

"He said it with no emotion, no nothing," the sophomore said. "I thought he was hurting, and that's way he was looking at it."

Other testimony included at least one statement from each defendant about beating someone up. Stringfield, Shane Myers and Wilks told the Silverado junior about beating up someone named Jamal, and Cody Myers told a fellow Boy Scout member that he and his brother Shane had beaten someone up.

Most of the teens, predominantly Silverado High School students, also testified that they attended regular drinking parties at a desert location off Windmill Lane and Amigo Street known as "the Hill," one of the last places Whaley was seen on Oct. 14, 2003.

Only Baker and the victim, Whaley, were said to have ever done drugs.

Whaley used methamphetamine on occasion, especially during the summers, the Silverado junior said; Baker used marijuana, cocaine and opium, often on a regular basis, according to the testimony.

A female Silverado sophomore testified that Baker had told her Whaley wanted to be a part of the group's drug dealing, but they didn't want him to "screw it up."

Authorities have argued that Baker wanted to kill Whaley because he had interfered with his and the co-defendants' drug dealing, police reports show.

Three more witnesses are scheduled to testify in the preliminary hearing on May 13.

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