COVINGTON – A sentencing hearing will be held June 22 for Devin Baham, 24, of Slidell, who was convicted by a St. Tammany Parish jury late Friday (May 15) of manslaughter, aggravated arson, and obstruction of justice for fatally stabbing a woman and setting her apartment on fire to cover up the crime. As a multiple offender, Baham faces life in prison.
“I want to thank the jury for their time and attention in this very difficult case,” District Attorney Warren Montgomery said at the end of the weeklong trial. “I believe justice has been served for the victim and her family by the jury’s unanimous verdicts.”
Assistant District Attorneys Julie Knight and Jay Adair prosecuted Baham before Judge Allison H. Penzato. Slidell police officers Jim Davis and Sgt. Sean McClain and former Slidell police officer Robert Chadwick investigated the murder.
Baham was one of three defendants charged in the death of Ashley King, who was stabbed 13 times and set on fire in her home in the early morning hours of Feb. 23, 2012. Andrew J. Sumner, 22, of Slidell, pled guilty March 9 to manslaughter, aggravated arson, and obstruction of justice for his role in King’s death and the fire. Sumner’s wife, Katelyn Lusich, 20, pled guilty in November 2014 to obstruction of justice and has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.
On the afternoon of Feb. 22, 2012, Baham and Sumner, who were best friends at the time, acted on a plan they had concocted to rob King of prescription pills and money. Sumner, who testified last week for the prosecution, said that King had sold him pills multiple times before and that he had helped to arrange the robbery so Baham could score money to buy a car.
Once the men were inside the apartment, though, King detected right away that something was awry and started asking questions. Baham then punched her, grabbed her from behind, and began stabbing her. Sumner testified that he fled to the kitchen and listened in panic as King screamed and eventually went silent.
Sumner said he fled the apartment a short time later with the pills and wad of cash taken from King’s purse. He left the scene with his then 17-year-old girlfriend, Lusich, who had climbed into the driver’s seat while waiting in the car. Once the couple made it to the upscale Slidell home that they shared with Sumner’s mother, Lusich stashed the pills and cash in a safe.
After receiving a call from Baham, who had stayed behind to clean up the murder scene, Sumner returned and picked up his friend from Heritage Park, located near King’s apartment. The men made their way back to Sumner’s house, siphoned gasoline from a boat in the yard, and then backtracked about 4 a.m. to King’s apartment to cover up their crime.
Sumner testified that Baham doused King’s body and the apartment with the gasoline and set them on fire. Firefighters, responding to the blaze at the occupied apartment building, discovered quickly that an accelerant had been used on King’s severely burned body and that the fire had been set intentionally. Phone records led them to Sumner, who later implicated Baham.
The jury rejected Baham’s claim that he was not at the murder scene and had nothing to do with the fire. The verdict on all three charges was unanimous.