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Sunday, April 13, 1997

Man charged in murder was given immunity in earlier murder

DALLAS (AP) - A man now charged with the murder of a truck driver had murder charges dropped against him once before at the request of the victim's family.

Adonis Baxter exchanged his testimony in a 1994 murder case for immunity. He agreed to testify in a civil lawsuit the victim's family filed against the apartment complex where the murder occurred; the family ended up getting $250,000.

Now Baxter is again charged with murder, this time in the January slaying of Stephenville truck driver Noble Butler.

Butler, 58, was killed outside a Borden milk plant in south Dallas during an attempted robbery, police said. Investigators said four men jumped on Butler's truck and one shot him in the back.

Baxter was arrested in Aurora, Colo. Another suspect was arrested earlier this week in Dallas.

Baxter's first murder charge involved the death of Aaron Haughwout.

Police say Haughwout's attackers mistook him for a member of a rival gang as he sat in his pickup at the Holly Tree Apartments in north Dallas in November 1994.

According to court documents, the assailants beat and kicked him. When he slumped to the ground, one of them shot him twice.

Baxter and four others were indicted on murder charges.

One man was convicted of murder and two others pleaded guilty to involvement in the slaying. The family filed a lawsuit in apparent frustration after the three received only five-year sentences.

"These guys are all getting five years," the victim's mother said. "And that sends the wrong message, loud and clear, to all those other gang members out there."

Baxter was supposed to go to trial in August 1996, but two months earlier, the Haughwouts asked Dallas County prosecutors to drop their cases against him and another suspect, Santis Jackson. The cases were dismissed a month later.

According to the affidavits, the Haughwouts made the arrangement in exchange for the suspects' testimony in the civil suit.

"We thought it was a weak case, and we respected the wishes of the family," said prosecutor Martin Miller.

The only evidence against Baxter in the case was testimony from the other gang members charged, Miller said, and their testimony was inconsistent.

Testimony also indicated that Baxter was on the other side of the apartment building when Haughwout was attacked, Miller said. In his deposition for the civil case, Baxter said he went to the apartment complex with the men, but wasn't in the area when Haughwout was killed.

Miller said even if Baxter was given the option of pleading to a lesser charge, he would have gotten probation and would have been free when Butler was killed.

A trial is scheduled to being Monday in Dallas for a second lawsuit filed by the Haughwouts, this one against security companies employed by the housing complex.Send a Letter to the Editor about This Story | Start or Join A Discussion about This Story
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