© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Hillsborough's new state attorney will seek the death penalty in teacher's fatal stabbing

Susan Lopez at the podium surrounded by DeSantis and law enforcement
Gov. Ron DeSantis' office
Susan Lopez was introduced as the new Hillsborough state attorney during a news conference on Aug. 4, 2022.

Susan Lopez reversed a previous ruling by suspended Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren and said Matthew Terry should face the death penalty if convicted in the stabbing death of Kay Baker.

In one of her first acts since taking over as Hillsborough state attorney, Susan Lopez filed a notice that her office will seek the death penalty in the fatal stabbing of a Hillsborough County teacher in May.

Matthew Terry was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend, 43-year-old Ruskin teacher Kay Baker, following an argument.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, previous state attorney Andrew Warren was not seeking the death penalty based on the wishes of Baker's family.

Warren said he would seek an enhanced sentence based on Terry's previous conviction of a violent felony in Michigan.

But in a statement Monday, Lopez — who last week replaced Warren following his suspension by Gov. Ron DeSantis — said Terry should face the death penalty if convicted.

"Every capital murder case must be evaluated on its own facts to determine if a reasonable jury made up of Hillsborough County citizens could unanimously sentence a defendant to death," Lopez said in the statement.

"It is the most serious penalty available under Florida law, and I approach this responsibility with humility and a sense of duty to the rule of law.

"Defendant Matthew Terry's actions were especially heinous, cruel, and atrocious. He was merciless in his brutal killing of Ms. Baker, and given his history of violent behavior, we will ask a jury to sentence him to death."

On Aug. 4, DeSantis announced he was suspending Warren, pointing to statements Warren had made that he would not enforce any current or potential state laws regarding abortion or transgender health care as one of the reasons for the suspension.

Sunday, Warren posted a video on his Facebook page in which he said he would form a legal team to contest the suspension and accused DeSantis of "trying to overthrow democracy" and "abusing his power to serve his own political ambition."

Warren's suspension is under review by the Republican-controlled Florida Senate, which will decide whether the suspension becomes permanent.

I wasn't always a morning person. After spending years as a nighttime sports copy editor and page designer, I made the move to digital editing in 2000. Turns out, it was one of the best moves I've ever made.