Lehigh Valley

Prosecutors to seek death penalty in fatal Palmer Twp. shooting

Police allege suspect fired at victim in his car

EASTON, Pa. - The Northampton County District Attorney’s Office plans to seek the death penalty against the Easton man accused of gunning down a man parked outside a Palmer Township Auto Zone earlier this year.

Prosecutors on Thursday filed their motion to seek the death penalty against Dekota J. Baptiste.

Authorities allege Baptiste fatally shot 36-year-old Terrance Ferguson on Feb. 23 in the parking lot of an Auto Zone off 25th Street. Township police said the victim suffered gunshot wounds to his neck and shoulder.

Police charged the 24-year-old Baptiste with criminal homicide, attempted homicide and two counts of aggravated assault. He also faces weapons charges for allegedly using a stolen handgun in the shooting.

Authorities said Ferguson had a passenger in the front seat and back seat. The front-seat passenger, Thressa Duarte, told police that Baptiste had followed them from Easton to the Auto Zone. She also alleged that she had received a text message from him earlier in the day stating he was going to shoot Ferguson.

Police said the argument between the two men was over Duarte.

A witness told authorities that the two vehicles pulled into the Auto Zone and circled the parking lot before Baptiste parked behind Ferguson’s vehicle and blocked him in. The shooting occurred about 7 p.m.

Prosecutors said they’re seeking the death penalty, in part, because Baptiste “created a grave risk of death” to Duarte. She was reportedly sitting in the front seat and ducked down when Baptiste began firing, resulting in the attempted homicide charge and one of the aggravated assault charges.

The district attorney’s office also argues Baptiste committed homicide while committing other felony offenses, namely illegal possession of a firearm, carrying a firearm without a license and receiving stolen property.

Police recovered a revolver and six shell casings. Baptiste was arrested in Easton after a chase.

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty, if Baptiste is convicted of first-degree murder. They also plan on presenting victim impact statements from Ferguson's family and friends.

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