The first open hearing in a wrongful death case that was filed in Jefferson County regarding a Conway man who reportedly died while playing Russian Roulette in 2015 will be held Thursday morning.
James “Luke” Baker, 20, of Conway reportedly died on Oct. 24, 2015, while playing a game of Russian Roulette by himself while he and three friends were out at the Prairie Wings Duck Club in Jefferson County.
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Baker’s family in late October, and the defendants listed in the suit — Skylar Wilson, Carson Cook, Austin Tate, Bryan Adams, Travis Jones, Karla Cook, Prairie Wings LLC, John Tate, Prairie Wings Lodge LLC, Christie Adams, Mary Tate, Reliance Health Care Inc., Brandon Adams, Todd Ross, Joe Wicker and John Doe companies as well as John and Jane Does “to be determined” — requested the case be sealed. A few days later, it was. However, the case was unsealed in early December.
Many of the documents since filed in the case are not accessible online. The most recently filed motion is on behalf of the defense, objecting to a request to search and collect evidence from the duck lodge.
The plaintiffs recently requested for a circuit judge’s OK to gather “floor mops, cleaning towels, pails, floor polishers, warning signs and devices and other equipment used by employees in the cleaning, drying, and polishing of the rooms or floors, both those used on the day of the accident and those available for use” … and also asks for “any cleaning materials, supplies, or machines, … guns, gun cabinets, liquor, firearms, ammunition, drugs, medicines, or containers used to store same, or dispose thereof, and related items.”
Thomas G. Williams, an attorney for Prairie Wings South LLC, said in a motion filed Friday that the plaintiffs’ request is unreasonable “because it is not limited in scope to the part of the hunting lodge where the accident occurred and the adjacent bedroom where the boys bunked.”
The suit filed by Kerry and Gena Baker, who are Luke’s parents, along with Savannah Baker, who is Luke’s sister, do not believe the 20-year-old died while playing Russian Roulette, citing possible cover-up initiatives by defendants listed in the suit.
According to the complaint, the defendants — specifically the three friends that traveled to the Duck Club with Luke — did not immediately notify authorities after he was shot in the head.
A news release previously issued by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said two of the three friends were asleep in another room while Wilson accompanied Luke in another room. According to statements by Wilson, young Tate and Carson Cook, Wilson reportedly went to wake the others after Luke placed a single bullet into a handgun and began playing Russian Roulette.
“Baker pointed [the] weapon towards the ceiling and pulled the trigger, but the weapon did not discharge,” JCSO Maj. Lafayette Woods Jr. wrote in the 2015 release. “At least one of Bakers friend who was awake left the room in order to wake the others, when they reportedly heard a second shot.”
The plaintiffs allege that they believe the defendants cleaned the crime scene prior to taking Baker to a hospital and before authorities were notified of an incident.
Luke and Wilson were alone together when Luke ultimately died of a gunshot wound to the head around 10:30 p.m. on the night in question.
“Immediately upon recognizing that Luke was dead, there was no effort to contact authorities, or call 911, or get help for Luke for some period of time,” the complaint states, adding that at this point, the three friends began working to coverup a murder.
According to the complaint, other co-defendants listed were contacted about the incident prior to the friends contacting authorities or leaving for the hospital.
During that time, the Duck Club owners “gave instructions as to what action should be taken to protect the interests of co-defendants.”
Of the instructions given, was to call someone to the scene to clear out all evidence, according to the now-sealed court documents.
Following the request by plaintiffs to search the duck lodge grounds for possible evidence, the defendants argued that “such discovery is not yet ripe.”
“Defendants all have pending motions to dismiss based upon plaintiffs’ failure to allege facts upon which any relief may be granted,” a motion filed Friday reads. ” Until the Court rules on Defendants’ motions to dismiss, no discovery should occur in this matter, including any entry upon or inspection of the hunting lodge premises where the accident occurred.”
A status hearing in the matter is currently scheduled to take place before a Jefferson County circuit judge at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Marisa Hicks is a reporter for the Conway Log Cabin Democrat, a sister publication to The Commercial.