MELROSE, Fla. — Florida authorities have arrested a family friend in the brutal killings of two young brothers, ages 14 and 12, who were beaten and stabbed to death early Wednesday as their mother and younger sibling slept, authorities said.
Mark Howard Wilson Jr., 30, is charged with two counts of first-degree premeditated murder in the killings of Tayten Baker, 14, and Robert Baker, 12, inside their Melrose home. Wilson, who was staying at the family’s home, is being held without bond in the Putnam County Jail.
“Today, we are grieving along with the family,” Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach said during a Friday news conference. “I know that while there is no closure for them because of their loss, we intend to bring justice for Robert and for Tayten.”
“They were wonderful boys. They were awesome,” the boys’ great-grandmother told Action News Jax in Jacksonville. “They never got in no trouble or anything. They were just good kids.”
A GoFundMe page set up to help pay the boys’ funeral expenses described them as good kids who were well-loved by all who knew them. As of Monday morning, more than $18,000 of the $20,000 goal had been raised.
“They loved playing video games, swimming and hanging out with their family,” the page said. “They had dreams and goals for their life that they will never be able to fulfill.”
DeLoach said the boys’ mother awoke Wednesday morning to find their brutalized bodies in a common area of the home, located at 129 Shiloh Road in Melrose. Her father, the boys’ grandfather, told Action News Jax that his frantic daughter drove to his home, located in the same neighborhood.
The grandfather, who asked not to be identified, said he and his wife drove to his daughter’s home separately, with his wife calling 911 on the way.
DeLoach said the 911 call came in around 10:38 a.m.
The boys’ grandfather said when he drove up, his wife was in the doorway, telling a dispatcher she believed the boys were dead.
He went inside, Action News Jax reported.
“I ripped the screen door open and I just screamed, ‘No!’ after I seen my grandson, Robert” the man told the news station. “And my grandson, Tayten, was by the pool table, laying there. And they were both deceased.”
Sheriff’s deputies, who arrived at the scene 12 minutes after the initial call, confirmed the boys were dead. The boys’ mother and younger sibling were unharmed, DeLoach said.
The children’s father, a long-haul truck driver, was working at the time of the killings.
“These are some of the most brutal murders that I have ever heard of,” R.J. Larizza, state attorney for Florida’s 7th Judicial District, said Friday. “I can tell you the defendant attacked these kids without mercy.”
Wilson, who had been dating the boys’ aunt, was arrested Thursday night about 15 miles away in Interlachen, his hometown. The hammer and knife authorities believe he used to kill the children have also been recovered, though the sheriff did not say where they were found.
No motive for the slayings had been determined as of Friday.
When asked what led investigators to Interlachen, DeLoach said “some very keen detective work” led to Wilson’s whereabouts.
DeLoach said the Bakers had moved into their home just two weeks before the double homicide. They had relocated from Polk County to be closer to family.
Wilson and the boys’ aunt were both staying on the family’s property because they otherwise would have been homeless, the sheriff said.
“(The Baker family) were trying to be supportive of family members and invited her sister and (Wilson) to live with them in a shed on the property,” DeLoach said. “The Baker family did a lot to help these two individuals and their family, and unfortunately, it ended in the brutal deaths of Robert and Tayten.”
Kolby Baker, one of the victims’ older brothers, expressed outrage over the killings.
“It be the people that you let live with you, the people you called family, the ones that acted as if they cared that will really (expletive) your whole life up,” Baker wrote on Facebook. “I really hope you rot in there, and I hope you get the maximum sentence possible, you sick (expletive).”
Wilson has an extensive criminal history involving drugs and property crimes, but no prior crimes of violence, DeLoach said Friday.
Florida Department of Corrections records show Wilson previously served a total of about four years in prison. He was released in February 2016.
Wilson could face the death penalty if convicted. DeLoach made clear in a Facebook statement that he wants the death penalty pursued in the case, both on the Sheriff’s Office’s official page and on his personal Facebook page.
“Mark Wilson, the sick monster responsible for Tayten and Robert’s brutal murder was arrested last night,” DeLoach wrote. “Very quickly detectives honed in on Wilson and immediately established this individual was only a threat to those around him.
“Unfortunately, Robert and Tayten were the ones who suffered whatever was going through Wilson’s twisted agenda.”
The sheriff thanked those who “worked tirelessly” to bring the family some closure and thanked community members who called in with information pertinent to the case.
“This arrest is only the first step in bringing Robert and Tayten justice. My sincere hope is that the death penalty is pursued in these senseless murders,” DeLoach wrote.
Larizza said capital punishment is being considered.
“This is a case worthy of consideration of the death penalty, but we need to talk to the family, we need to review the evidence, we need to get our executive team together” Larizza said. “Then we will give a thorough review of all the facts and circumstances, and the law as it applies. But I can tell you, it will be considered.”
The sheriff said detectives uncovered a “significant amount of evidence” leading them to Wilson’s arrest. The investigation is ongoing.
“While we made an arrest, there’s still a significant amount of work to do in this case,” DeLoach said. “It’s evolving as we speak, and we still have many unanswered questions.”
Larizza praised the cooperation between his office and the sheriff’s investigators to bring about an arrest within 48 hours of such a horrific crime.
“When you have a murder with the level of violence that we had in these particular cases, it’s disturbing not just to law enforcement and prosecutors, but the community as a whole,” Larizza said. “I want to applaud our investigators, our prosecutors and all the folks at the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office for bringing this arrest home in such a short period of time.
“The community is safer because of it.”
Cox Media Group