Branigin Creek death investigation deemed homicide

The autopsy report released Tuesday morning adds to the mystery that unfolded Saturday in the Branigin Creek subdivision. The report, released by Johnson County Coroner’s Office, shows Jennifer L. Lewis’s cause of death was a single gunshot wound and the manner of death was homicide.

Charges for Lewis’s live-in boyfriend of 21 years, Johnathan Z. Baker, 49 of Franklin, have not been filed, though he has been questioned in connection with the death.

The incident started as a report of suicide in the 2700 block of Woodfield Boulevard at around 1:46 a.m. Saturday. Baker was inside the house with Lewis, 47, when police arrived, said Kirby Cochran, Franklin police chief.

Police have questioned Baker and are working with Indiana State Police Crime Lab to gather evidence, Cochran said.

Evidence processing will take some time, possibly weeks. Updates will be provided when there is more to share, he said

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 Tuesday morning, he remained at the jail.

Crime scene tape cordons off the property in the 2700 block of Woodfield Boulevard where police investigate the “suspicious” death Saturday morning. Noah Crenshaw | Daily Journal

Cochran confirmed Franklin police have been to the home before for previous emergency calls. A request for information about past calls was sent to Franklin police records division but wasn’t fulfilled by press time Tuesday.

A police call to the house in early January resulted in charges of strangulation, a Level 6 felony, and domestic battery, a misdemeanor. Court documents show Lewis was the victim in this incident.

Court documents say the two had an argument that ended in Baker allegedly hitting Lewis 75 times and choking her to the point that she nearly passed out.

At the time, Lewis told family members about the incident and they alerted the police. One caller said Baker had “beat the s***” out of her and said they believe Baker is a “suicide by cop” risk, according to court documents.

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, 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.

Online court records show no other criminal cases or citations for Baker outside of speeding tickets.