A jury deliberated four hours Friday before convicting a man of shooting off-duty Oklahoma County sheriff's Maj. John Waldenville and robbing him of $6,000 as he walked to make a bank deposit for Cattlemen's Steakhouse.
Christopher Travis Baker, 30, of Oklahoma City, showed no reaction when jurors returned verdicts of guilty for shooting with intent to kill and robbery with a firearm.
“Justice was done,” juror Jenny Cox, of Choctaw, said as she left the courtroom.
The panel also considered Baker's punishment and recommended sentences of life in prison on the first charge and 30 years on the second charge. Baker, who has prior convictions for burglary and robbery, is set to be sentenced by District Judge Kenneth C. Watson on Feb. 8.
Prosecutors alleged Baker ambushed Waldenville on May 21, 2011, just after midnight, as he walked to a nearby bank to deposit money for the restaurant where he worked as a security guard.
Waldenville, 61, was shot in the face and lost his right eye.
“This was a brutal, senseless, heartless crime committed against a deputy who was working a second job trying to provide for his family,” First Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland said outside the courtroom.
Rowland said Waldenville might have died had it not been for the efforts of medical personnel and a Cattlemen's dishwasher who took off his shirt and applied pressure to Waldenville's gunshot wound moments after the shooting.
Waldenville did not attend the five-day trial, but several family members did, including his three sisters and youngest daughter.
“This is a victory for our brother and for us,” Cathy Waldenville Newman said.
Nancy Waldenville Brewer, the deputy's youngest sister, hugged Baker's mother after the verdicts were read and kissed her on the forehead.
“It's not her fault,” Waldenville Brewer said. “Her son made a choice, and he has to suffer the consequences. We don't hold her responsible.”
In their closing arguments Friday, Rowland and Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Chance said Baker was broke and had motive to rob Waldenville, citing witness testimony and recordings of phone calls Baker made to his girlfriend from jail.
In one of the conversations, Baker is overheard saying he “had to make some moves” and if given a second chance “woulda did what I did.”
A witness told the jury Baker asked him for change to buy a cheap cigar on the day before the shooting. The same witness said Baker was carrying several $100s and gave him $20 for gas and $20 to drive him around a day after the shooting.
Perhaps the most damning testimony came from a man serving prison time for paralyzing police officer Chad Peery.
Joshua Rinken testified that during jailhouse conversations Baker admitted to the shooting. During one conversation, Baker recounted running up behind Waldenville and trying to grab bank bags from the lawman, who appeared to reach for his gun, Rinken said.
“I had to shoot him … if I didn't, I would be a memory today,” Rinken said Baker told him.
Defense attorney Craig Hoehns argued Baker was innocent because he wasn't there the night Waldenville was shot and robbed of two bank bags.
“This man is not guilty because he didn't do it,” Hoehns said in his closing argument.
“They got the wrong guy.”
Hoehns told the jury that co-defendant Keonta Stephan Terrell Prince and another man shot and robbed Waldenville.
Prince, he said, turned in Baker because Baker knew about the robbery and stole money from Prince.
Prince, 19, a former Cattlemen's dishwasher, had testified against Baker at Baker's preliminary hearing. He had a deal with prosecutors to testify at Baker's trial but refused to take the stand.
Prosecutors instead read a transcript of Prince's prior testimony to jurors. In it, Prince said he and Baker planned to rob Waldenville, but it was Baker who shot and robbed the lawman when he turned and appeared to be reaching for his gun.
“He backed up on us, and it is our intention to try him next,” Rowland said of Prince.