Murder trial underway in Miller County

Sherry Lashay Woods

A Miller County jury began hearing testimony Monday afternoon in the case of a woman who claims she acted in self-defense.

Sherry Lashay Woods, 36, wept as opening statements were made Monday afternoon in her second-degree murder trial at the Miller County courthouse. Woods is accused in the Oct. 5, 2016, fatal stabbing of Jeffery Baker.

Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black told the jury the case is not a “who done it.” Black said Woods attacked Baker, who was drunk, with a knife repeatedly as he tried to flee.

Managing Public Defender Jason Mitchell told the jury Woods was simply defending her teen sons and a friend from Baker’s aggression and called her a “mama bear.” Mitchell asked Woods, who is approximately 5 feet and of thin build, to stand for the jury as he said, “This is not the face of a monster.”

Texarkana, Ark., Cpl. Claudia Phelps testified she was the first officer to arrive at a chaotic scene on Tenth Street in Texarkana, Ark., near the intersections of California and Louisiana Streets. Phelps said Baker was lying in the street and that she was in the process of getting supplies needed to stop bleeding when Texarkana, Ark., patrol officer John VanMeter arrived. VanMeter and Licensed Practical Nurse Priscilla Newton, who was driving to her mother’s home when she was stopped and asked for help, attempted to render aid to Baker.

Under questioning from Stephanie Black, Phelps testified that Woods was crying in the road and was “very, very upset.” Phelps said she helped Woods to her patrol car and took possession of a kitchen butcher knife brought to her by one of Woods’ teenage sons. Under cross examination from Managing Public Defender Jason Mitchell, Phelps said others at the scene were telling her that Woods was defending her children.

VanMeter testified that he cordoned off the area and marked a trail of blood leading from the curb in front of Woods’ home to the large pool of blood where Baker’s body was lifted from the ground and onto a gurney. Crime Scene Detective Eric Winters testified that he photographed the individual drops of blood, the scene and Baker’s body after Baker was pronounced dead at a local emergency room.

Arkansas State Crime Lab Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Kokes testified that Baker suffered an eight inch stab wound in his left shoulder area which punctured and collapsed his left lung and severed the artery which delivers blood to the lung. VanMeter testified that the wound’s location made it impossible to successfully apply a field tourniquet and that he contacted emergency dispatchers with a request for fire and hospital paramedics in hopes of saving Baker’s life.

Kokes testified under questioning from Chief Deputy Prosecutor Chuck Black that Baker suffered a serious stab wound to his right chest that could have led to a second collapsed lung. Photos of less severe stab wounds to Baker’s neck, the back of his neck and his back were shown as Kokes testified. As a picture of a bloody kitchen butcher knife collected by Phelps at the scene was shown, Kokes testified that the knife appeared capable of causing the fatal stab wounds on Baker’s body.

Kokes testified that toxicology screenings did not find any illegal drugs in Baker’s system but that Baker’s blood alcohol level was .322. Drivers are considered impaired at .08.

Woods’ 15-year-old son was the final witness to testify Monday. The teen, who was 14 at the time of the stabbing, said he was in his room playing a game on his phone when his older brother, 16, came and told him Baker had hit his cousin, an adult female. The teen said he and his brother began fighting with Baker in the street outside their house on Tenth Street, under questioning from Stephanie Black. The teen said he believes his mother was trying to protect him and his brother, under questioning from Mitchell.

Under questioning from Stephanie Black, the teen testified that he is currently being held in a juvenile detention facility for aggravated robbery. Under questioning from Mitchell, the teen said his mother had told him to tell the truth.

Miller County Circuit Judge Brent Haltom instructed the jury of nine women and three men to return to court this morning to continue hearing testimony in the case. If found guilty of second-degree murder, Woods faces six to 30 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000

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