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A Florida man has been convicted of stabbing his live-in girlfriend to death, in what prosecutors termed a jealous rage.
It took a Tampa jury slightly more than an hour to convict Matthew Robertson Terry, 47, of the first-degree murder of his then-girlfriend, Kay Baker, 43, on May 28, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The jury, which rendered its verdict on Tuesday, was due to reconvene on Wednesday to decide whether Terry should be sentenced to death or to life in prison.
Terry had unusually opted not to waive his right to a speedy trial in the case, which meant he stood before a jury before the prosecution even had a chance to finish testing all the blood samples in the case, the paper reported. While his defense attorneys attempted to use facts like those to his benefit — suggesting that Terry and Baker had both been attacked in her home by an otherwise unseen, unidentified intruder from whom they escaped out a window — the gambit did not work in his favor.
Terry's defense called no witnesses to counter the prosecution's case, and Terry himself told the court he was opting not to testify in his own defense.
“My desire is to testify,” he told the judge, according to the Times. “However, I am going to follow my attorneys’ advice and not testify.”
Baker, her throat slashed and gasping for breath, was found by neighbors between two homes in Lithia, Florida — a suburb of Tampa — at around 12:30 a.m. on May 28, Oxygen.com previously reported. They'd come outside after hearing what they described as a thump and a woman gasping and crying, the Times reported. The wounds on her neck were so deep that she died before emergency personnel arrived at the scene; prosecutors at trial described her as "nearly decapitated," according to Tampa Fox affiliate WTVT. She had additional stab wounds to her shoulder.
Prosecutors found a bedroom window with a screen pushed out and blood leading away from the home to Baker's body and then blood leading away from it. They eventually found Terry, in a blood-soaked T-shirt and his underwear, with Baker's blood on his hands and two stab wounds to his neck. Investigators said that, at the scene, he declined to make any "statements without legal representation," Law & Crime reported.
A knife missing from Baker's kitchen was never found. Police believe that Baker locked herself in the bedroom and climbed out the window in an effort to escape Terry's attack, but that he followed her and and then killed her.
Prosecutors presented evidence that the two had gone out with friends that evening at the nearby Landing Bar and Grill, where Baker emerged from the bathroom to see a girl friend near the bar, Law & Crime reported. As the two embraced and did a little "happy dance" to whatever music was playing, an unidentified man that neither women knew briefly walked up, mimicked their dance and continued to the bathroom.
Baker's friend testified that Terry became enraged and insisted “I saw you dancing with that guy.” The two argued and left the bar, continuing their fight in the car home — at which point Baker called the friend and put her on speaker phone to corroborate her story that she was not really dancing with another man, the Times reported.
She then texted her friend: "lol sorry for that. so dumb ... all good now."
Less than an hour later, she bled out in her neighbor's yard from a gaping wound to her throat.
In what might have been the most damning testimony against Terry — which his lawyers fought to keep out — his ex-girlfriend Michelle Rogers testified about Terry's 2017 attack on her in Michigan, for which he spent three years in jail before meeting Baker.
Rogers testified that the two had gone out barhopping for St. Patrick's Day, but she'd left him and returned to their shared home when he got too intoxicated, Law & Crime reported. When he returned, she testified, he lunged at her, punched her repeatedly, pinned her to the ground and began slamming her head against the floor.
She testified that she asked him “I love you why are you doing this?” and he replied “No you don’t, f--k you, I’m going to kill you."
When he got off her, she got up and tried to run — but Terry had gone to get a knife from their kitchen.
"The next thing you know, Mr. Terry comes around behind me and stabs me in the neck," she testified, WTVT reported.
She ran out into the yard and he stabbed her three more times before neighbors called the police and he ran away. He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years, but paroled in three despite Rogers' objections.
He was released in 2021 and, according to his own defense lawyers, moved to Tampa to be with Baker — a third grade science and math teacher at Cypress Creek Elementary in Ruskin, Florida.
The two had dated more than 15 years before his relationship with Rogers and re-connected while he was awaiting trial in that assault, the Times reported earlier this year. Baker testified in his defense against Rogers, Law & Crime reported, and stayed involved with him while he served his sentence, according to the Times.
Baker's friends in Florida read the letter Michelle Rogers sent to the parole board contesting Terry's release the night before their friend's funeral, according to the paper.
“If we would have believed Michelle to begin with,” one friend, Lindsey Fielder, told the Times. “I want her to know that we support her and how sorry I am that I didn’t believe her.”
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