Man questioned in Franklin “suspicious” death on probation for domestic violence

Franklin police and the Johnson County Coroner’s Office are investigating a death that is being called “suspicious” in the Branigin Woods neighborhood.

The call came in as a report of suicide in the 2700 block of Woodfield Boulevard at around 1:46 a.m. Saturday. A man was inside the house with the deceased woman, identified as Jennifer L. Lewis, 47, of Franklin, said Kirby Cochran, Franklin police chief.

The death was initially treated as a suicide but is now being called “suspicious.” Police are questioning the man, identified as Johnathan Z. Baker, 49, of Franklin, and working with Indiana State Police Crime Lab to gather evidence and with the coroner’s office to verify the cause of death, Cochran said in a press release Saturday afternoon.

Baker was arrested and booked into the Johnson County jail Saturday afternoon for a probation violation relating to the possession of handguns, Cochran said. As of Sunday morning, he remained at the jail on a $2,400 bond.

Johnson County Coroner Mike Pruitt released a statement Saturday afternoon stating the death is still under investigation and an autopsy is scheduled for Monday.

“A preliminary cause of death should be available following the autopsy. Franklin police are continuing to investigate the circumstances leading up to the death,” Pruitt said in the statement.

Baker has not been charged with a criminal act related to this death investigation as of press time on Sunday. More information regarding the investigation will be released when the nature of the death is clear, Cochran said.

“Further, we would like the citizens and residents of Franklin to know the neighborhood is safe. We do not believe there is reason for concern of further danger related to this incident,” Cochran said in the statement.

Cochran confirmed Franklin police have been to the home before for previous emergency calls.

A police call in early January resulted in charges of strangulation, a Level 6 felony, and domestic battery, a misdemeanor. Online court records for this case have Baker’s address listed as a home on Highland Avenue.

Based on information that was publicly available Sunday morning, it is currently unknown if Lewis was the person assaulted in the January incident.

After failing to appear in court multiple times this year, Baker pled guilty to the domestic battery charge on Sept. 21 in Johnson County Superior Court 2. He was sentenced to 365 days in jail with four days to be executed and the remainder of the sentence suspended to probation. The strangulation charge was dismissed, per the plea agreement approved by Judge Peter Nugent.

While the case was in progress Baker was subject to a no-contact order for the victim of that case, but the order was lifted as part of the plea deal.

Baker was also ordered to complete domestic violence counseling and pay domestic violence fees, online court records show.

Though police have had interactions with Baker, online court records show no other criminal cases or citations for Baker outside of speeding tickets.