Best was trying to change his life
By Gary Popp
Published in News on March 20, 2011 1:50 AM
Keshona Baker talks about her boyfriend Derrick Raymont Best -- the man who is accused of firing the shot that killed Princess Shelby King.
For nearly three weeks Derrick Raymont Best was on the run, law enforcement officials unable to find him. But for the last three days before his arrest on Wednesday, one person knew where he was, his girlfriend Keshona Baker. He was living with her in the Greenville apartment she was subleasing, she said.
Now, however, the man Ms. Baker loves, a man who allegedly killed a toddler as she played outside her home, is facing the possibility of life behind bars.
The 24-year-old said she and Best, 29, had plans to marry -- plans that all changed when Best allegedly fired the stray bullet that killed 3-year-old Princess Shelby King.
Now, after nearly three weeks of running from the police, Best is being held at the Wayne County Jail facing a first-degree murder charge for that Feb. 27 shooting.
But while Ms. Baker said her heart goes out to the King family, she says her boyfriend of six years is not completely responsible for Princess' death.
"I understand that the circumstances are deep and very serious, but as cliché as it may sound, he is a serious victim of circumstances," she said.
She said the history she has with Best does not align with the future he is facing alone.
"He is, most of all, the most loving person that I know. He has the biggest heart ever, and it just hurts my feelings that he has been portrayed as a monster almost," she said. "He is not a monster."
Ms. Baker said the accounts of Best that she has seen in the media since the shooting have showed a side of Best she didn't know.
"He kept me completely away from all the street things, to the point where I (wasn't) in the projects. That is not my lifestyle. I didn't grow up there. I don't know those people. It is like a whole other person to me from what I have been hearing, like, I don't know that person," she said.
She said Best is a father to three children, 11, 8, and 3 years old, none of whom are hers.
"I know that he loves kids," she said. "(I want) the police and everybody to understand that it was definitely a mistake, that he definitely wouldn't hurt a child.
"I am almost in a state of confusion because this isn't the person that I know and this isn't the person I love. I almost feel he is the victim. It is not like he is out starting trouble or trying to find trouble. It is just that in his situations things happen."
Ms. Baker said the death of Princess was an unfortunate turn of fate in Best's life.
"I feel like this is the worst thing that could have happened to him. The way things have been going on in his life for the past three or fours years, it seems like it was almost written in his destiny, or something, for him to have hurt a child, just because things seem like they (were) just circling around, building up and coming at him the wrong way," she said.
At the time of the shooting, Best was out on parole after being charged in 2008 with the attempted murder of Alicia Griffin -- a charge that Ms. Baker questions because of a history between the parties involved stemming back to the shooting of Best's older brother.
"Because of his (police) record, too, I feel like the police were waiting for something like that to happen," she said.
She said she is concerned that Best will be singled out throughout the judicial process that awaits him.
"I just feel like because of his record and all the things he has done, he is going to get a way worse penalty. I guess to me it is unfair, but I guess by justice it will seem like it would be what he deserves, I guess. I don't know. But, I don't like it ending up like this," she said.
Ms. Baker said she doesn't know what it was that could have triggered Best to allegedly begin shooting on Feb. 27 in an open lot at The Grand on Day Point on Day Circle with Princess and other children and adults nearby.
"I just feel like he blanked at that point in time, just completely blacked out. His daughter stays right out there, and if he would have thought twice, Lord if he would have thought twice about children being in the background, then it would not have happened. He would have been able to control himself better," she said.
She said that something must have occurred for Best to have allegedly gone to a nearby vehicle to retrieve a a gun and begin shooting.
"Whatever was said that got him to that point to make him lose focus, for it to have been the time of day that it was it, had to completely catch him off guard," she said.
And so, in her eyes, her long-time boyfriend is the victim partly of circumstance, but Ms. Baker said she still feels the sorrow for the family and the mother who lost her youngest child.
"I really want to send out my condolences to the family on his behalf and say sorry. I know sorry is not even half of what they want to hear," she said. "I saw on the news that (Princess') mom said she forgives him, and thank you for the forgiveness."
Still, despite knowing that her boyfriend was wanted for murder, she said she didn't call the police when he showed up unexpectedly on her birthday.
"I was shocked to even see him," she said.
She said she tried to talk him into turning himself in, but that he said he wasn't ready to do that yet. And, she said, she didn't call the police herself because she didn't have a phone available at home and didn't feel comfortable calling from her work.
However, she did say that when she came home to find the police around her apartment, she acknowledged to them that Best was there.
"I talked to (the police) on my way home from work. They stopped me on my way to the building. We spoke. They asked me if I had seen him. I didn't hide the fact that he had been here. I let them know that up front," she said.
But she declined to speak any further on what happened during those three days he was at her apartment, other than to say that Best had not forced her to hide him.
Goldsboro police Sgt. Dwayne Dean said Saturday that Ms. Baker has not been charged, but that they haven't discussed the possibility yet with the district attorney's office.
"We are not at that point in the investigation," Dean said. "The investigation is not closed because he has been arrested."
The worst part, Ms. Baker said, is that before all this happened, Best had been attempting to better himself.
"He was coming out. There wasn't going to be any more of that, to the point where we were planning marriage," she said. "He was looking for jobs, but with his record, you know, it wasn't going to be easy. He was in the process of putting applications out."
But, she said, that change just didn't happen soon enough.
"It burns my heart because we were inseparable" she said. "It is just too much to handle. Tell him I love him."