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Duluth murder trial set to begin: King faces potential life sentence if convicted

DULUTH — After nearly 21 months, the first trial in the February 2017 shooting death of University of Minnesota Duluth student William Grahek is set to get underway Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Noah Anthony Charles King, a 20-year-old alleged accomplice, will have his fate decided by a judge. He is one of five defendants charged in the case, with two guilty pleas already entered.

King is accused of accompanying two other men during an attempted robbery of drugs and cash from Grahek’s East Hillside residence. Grahek, 22, was shot twice, allegedly by co-defendant Deandre Demetrius Davenport, after he refused to comply with their demands.

King is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count each of intentional second-degree murder and attempted first-degree aggravated robbery.

A Duluth grand jury in August 2017 indicted the trio on first-degree murder charges, alleging they caused Grahek’s death while attempting to commit robbery and burglary. If convicted on one or both of those charges, King would face a mandatory life sentence with potential for parole only after 30 years.

King this week waived his right to a jury, instead opting for a bench trial before 6th Judicial District Judge Mark Munger. Testimony is expected to take up to eight days, wrapping up by Nov. 16. At the conclusion, Munger will have up to a week to issue a verdict.

Grahek was shot inside his home, 510 E. 11th St., on Feb. 14, 2017. The case went unsolved for several weeks until the five suspects were arrested in early March.

Co-defendant Noah Duane Baker, who pleaded guilty in April, testified that plans were in place to rob Grahek a month before they executed the plan. He admitted at his plea hearing that they were seeking cash, marijuana and the party drug MDMA, commonly known as “Molly.”

Baker testified that he and Davenport left their shared residence at 1802 E. Third St. to meet up with King at his house, 513 E. 10th St., on the afternoon of Feb. 14. Baker said the three of them changed into all-black clothing at King's house and walked across the alley to Grahek's home.

Baker admitted that he and Davenport carried firearms and that King carried a wrench “for (Grahek’s) dog.” Baker testified that they encountered Grahek and both he and Davenport produced their Glock handguns. He said they demanded Grahek’s safe but the victim refused.

Baker testified that Grahek continued approaching the group and he saw Davenport fire his weapon once. As he ran away, he said he heard a second shot. Authorities have said Grahek was shot in the chest and mouth.

Baker further testified that they fled the scene and went back to the residence he shared with his sister and Davenport. His sister, Tara Rai Baker, then allegedly gave King a ride home. The others allegedly then proceeded to a Superior hotel room that was arranged in the aftermath by Xavier Alfred Haywood, who Baker said had planned the robbery.

Noah Baker, 21, is serving a 30-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to intentional second-degree murder. Tara Baker, 24, received six years of supervised probation for lying to police about her knowledge of the incident.

Davenport, 23, who is facing the same charges as King, is scheduled for a jury trial beginning Dec. 4 in Brainerd, Minn. Haywood, 28, who is charged with a felony count of aiding an offender, has a trial scheduled for March 19.