Crime scene tape cordons off a home on the 2700 block of Woodfield Boulevard where police were investigating a death on Nov. 12 in Franklin.

Daily Journal File Photo

It’s been nearly a month since a suspicious death shattered the calm of Franklin’s Branigin Creek neighborhood, and many questions remain about the ongoing investigation.

A 911 call for a reported suicide at a home on the 2700 block of Woodfield Boulevard came in around 1:46 a.m. on Nov. 12. A man was inside the house with a deceased woman, identified as Franklin resident Jennifer L. Lewis, 47, Franklin Police Chief Kirby Cochran said last month.

Lewis’s death was preliminarily determined to be a homicide by the Johnson County Coroner’s Office on Nov. 15. Her cause of death was a single gunshot wound, according to the preliminary report.

The man inside the house at the time of Lewis’ death — identified by police as Johnathan Z. Baker, 49, also of Franklin — has been questioned in connection with her death.

No criminal charges in connection to the murder have been filed against Baker, who was Lewis’s live-in boyfriend of 21 years. But he is being held without bond at the Johnson County jail for a probation violation related to unlawful possession of a handgun. He was on probation in connection to a domestic battery conviction stemming from a January incident.

A few days after the incident last month, Cochran said Franklin police were working with the Indiana State Police Crime Lab to gather evidence from the scene. Evidence processing was expected to take some time, possibly weeks, he said.

Investigation ongoing

As the one-month anniversary of Lewis’ death approaches, Franklin police are continuing to investigate it. As of now, it is unclear if and when charges may be filed.

Brandon Robinson, chief deputy prosecutor for the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office, told the Daily Journal Wednesday that Franklin police were “diligently” investigating Lewis’ death. Once the investigation is complete, the department will choose whether or not to refer criminal charges to the prosecutor’s office for review, he said.

“If and when that occurs, I would be better equipped to provide you with a timeline at that juncture,” Robinson said via email.

Cochran confirmed Thursday the investigation was still ongoing and said the department is at the mercy of the evidence processing taking place at different locations. No further information can be released at this time in order to protect the investigation, he said.

Detectives are continuing to work closely with the prosecutor’s office, and they are confident that formal charges would be filed in the coming weeks, Cochran said.

“As with all investigations of this magnitude, we strive to ensure a thorough and complete investigation,” he said.

Multiple 911 calls

Online court records show no other criminal cases or citations for Baker outside of speeding tickets. Despite this, Baker and Lewis had become known to Franklin police over the last year, according to police reports obtained by the Daily Journal.


Franklin police have responded to at least seven calls involving Baker and Lewis since 2016, some at the Woodfield Boulevard home, while others took place at a different address. Not all of the calls involved domestic disturbances, and only one ultimately resulted in criminal charges.

The Daily Journal normally does not name the victims of domestic battery incidents but is doing so in the interest of the public for this particular situation.

In some of the calls dating back to 2016 and 2018, Baker claimed he was assaulted by relatives of his and Lewis’. Lewis was assaulted in one incident involving multiple relatives, but Baker did not assault her, according to the reports.

The first reported incident of Baker allegedly assaulting Lewis was in October 2021. Lewis had visible injuries and told police Baker had been both “physically and mentally abusive” for over 20 years. She also said the abuse was increasing in frequency, according to the Oct. 26, 2021 police report.

In that report, the two had reportedly gotten into an argument because Baker was drunk and making accusations against her. Responding officers encouraged Lewis to seek help and told her about local resources, the report says.

Police were unable to speak to Baker, who had already left the home, and charges were ultimately not filed for this incident.

Police were called to the home again in early January for another domestic battery report. It resulted in Baker being charged with strangulation, a Level 6 felony, and domestic battery, a misdemeanor. Court documents say the two had an argument that ended in Baker 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 believed Baker was a “suicide by cop” risk, according to court documents filed on Jan. 28.

After failing to appear in court multiple times this year, Baker pleaded 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 charges were pending, Baker was subject to a no-contact order. The order was later lifted as part of the plea deal.

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

Calls continued after charges

Despite charges being filed in January, the calls continued. In February, officers responded to the home after receiving an incomplete 911 call where dispatchers could hear a verbal argument.

Lewis allegedly told detectives Baker was drunk, and that he had not hit her. She told officers she was tired of being verbally abused, and a responding officer drove her to a relative’s home in Franklin, a Feb. 10 police report says

Baker refused to speak to officers, and the case was ultimately closed because there was no proof a crime occurred, according to the report.

Franklin police responded to the home again in August, and in the report, an officer wrote that dispatchers had said the home had a history of domestic disturbances. One of the officers who responded was already familiar with Baker and Lewis, according to the Aug. 16 police report narrative.

Children in the neighborhood reported seeing a man drag a woman inside the Woodfield Boulevard home. When police arrived, Baker allegedly said Lewis had left the home on foot. He gave police permission to search the home, and Lewis wasn’t there, according to the report.

Baker said he was trying to get Lewis, who was intoxicated, back into the house. He also said he did not injure her, the report says.

Police ultimately found Lewis in a vacant nearby home, and she confirmed Baker’s account. She asked to be taken to a relative’s house, and the report was closed.

This incident ultimately wasn’t ruled a domestic battery, and no criminal charges were filed.

Daily Journal editor Leeann Doerflein contributed to this report.