CHARLOTTE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The trial of Steven Wiggins, the man accused of killing Dickson County Sgt. Daniel Baker, got underway Monday, with the state calling Baker's widow as its first witness.
Wiggins is accused of killing Sgt. Daniel Baker during a traffic stop back in 2018. Wiggins is charged with premeditated first-degree murder after authorities say he shot Baker four times after the sergeant stopped the vehicle, which had been reported stolen.
Before the trial began, a separate hearing was held to discuss whether they need to hold the trial under COVID protocols. The defense asked for a continuance because an expert witness is not willing to travel to Tennessee due to the Delta variant and the high level of cases in Dickson County.
However, the state said that was just another delay and that precautions could be taken if the witness is concerned.
Judge David Wolfe denied the motion to continue and requested the witness to appear via Zoom.
District Attorney General Ray Crouch is seeking the death penalty for Wiggins. During opening statements, Crouch detailed the timeline of the case, leading up to Baker's killing.
Crouch said Wiggins shot Baker from the passenger side, at which point Baker radioed "shots fired, officer down." Crouch said Baker collapsed and Wiggins shot and killed Baker at close range.
From there, Wiggins allegedly put Baker's body in his patrol car and drove away from the scene. Crouch said Wiggins even answered multiple calls from dispatch.
Crouch said Wiggins then drove to the Bear Creek Valley area, through fields and to a remote area, where he set fire to Baker's body and the patrol car.
After Wiggins was identified as the suspect, one of the largest manhunts in the State of Tennessee ensued. Wiggins remained at large for two days. Crouch said he was found with what was determined to be the murder weapon, along with Baker’s backup weapon and knife.
Crouch said during an interview, Wiggins was asked why he shot Baker in the head at close range in the head. He said Wiggins responded: "It’s like a dog, you don’t let it suffer."
In opening statements, Wiggins’ attorney made an argument that while he killed the deputy, it wasn’t premeditated. Meanwhile, the state said Wiggins told the TBI ‘it’s like a dog, you don’t let it suffer.’— Alexandra Koehn (@NC5_AKoehn) August 2, 2021
The deputy’s wife shared a few family photos and a heartfelt video of Sgt. Baker opening a gift from Christmas.
It was also an emotional day for multiple deputies and family members who broke down while testifying in court about the two crime scenes.
It brought Sgt. Gregory Dearborn to tears. Dearborn said, “We walked down the hill and we saw a grey silver Saturn, and looking around, we saw a pool of blood.”
Erika Castro Miles, a woman who was with Wiggins, is also charged and will be tried later.
NewsChannel5's Alexandra Koehn will be following the trial from the courtroom. NewsChannel 5 will also stream the trial online, on Facebook and on Roku and Apple TV.