Combative witness nearly derails trial in murder of Mpls. real estate agent

The joint trial of two men charged in the 2019 kidnapping and murder of a north Minneapolis woman nearly ended in a mistrial Tuesday when a key witness repeatedly clashed with a defense attorney.

The judge eventually threatened to arrest the witness, saying: “You are about 3 inches from a jail cell right now.”

The disruptions occurred shortly after prosecutors and defense attorneys gave their opening statements. The combative witness, the state’s first to be called to testify, was Jon Mitchell-Momoh, who was romantically involved with the victim, Monique Baugh, and who was allegedly entangled in a business feud at the time of her death.

Just before noon, Mitchell-Momoh made an unsolicited statement expressing his disbelief that “taxpayer dollars” were being used to defend the suspects. The remark defied an earlier order from Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who banned him from identifying the defense attorneys as public defenders.

“Please stop talking,” Cahill ordered Mitchell-Momoh after sending jurors out of the courtroom. “Mr. Momoh, you’re not helping yourself here.”

Mitchell-Momoh had made a similar statement earlier and frequently interrupted defense attorney Tanya Bishop. He asked her several times to repeat clearly stated questions and interrupted the judge.

“Did I say talk?” a visibly frustrated Cahill said before threatening him with arrest.

The exchange came in the first day of testimony in the trial of Cedric Berry and Berry Davis, both 42. A grand jury indicted them on the same charges: aiding and abetting premeditated first-degree murder, aiding and abetting attempted premeditated first-degree murder, aiding and abetting kidnapping, and aiding and abetting first-degree felony murder while committing kidnapping.

Berry and Davis are the first of five suspects charged in Baugh’s Dec. 31, 2019, killing to go to trial.

The case shocked the community for its callousness: Authorities allege that former Hennepin County probation officer Elsa Segura used a cellphone to lure Baugh, a real estate agent, to a fake home showing in Maple Grove. There, Berry and Davis kidnapped Baugh in the back of a U-Haul truck. They contend that Segura was spurred by her romantic link to Mitchell-Momoh’s former business associate, Lyndon Wiggins.

A man in a black ski mask later used Baugh’s key to enter her north Minneapolis home where he shot and wounded Mitchell-Momoh as the daughters he shared with Baugh, then 3 and 1, slept nearby. Baugh later was found shot in a Minneapolis alley.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Thad Tudor told jurors he couldn’t say what happened to Baugh in the back of the U-Haul between her abduction at 3:18 p.m. and the truck’s arrival at her home about 5:16 p.m., but described it as “not pleasant.”

“She was bleeding significantly” inside the truck, he said.

Baugh suffered scratches, bruises and a chipped tooth, and “a number” of her acrylic fingernails had been ripped off, Tudor said. “They’re designed to stay on your fingers … for a long time, and it takes some force to rip them off,” he said.

The U-Haul circled Baugh’s block for about 30 minutes before Mitchell-Momoh was shot about 5:40 p.m., Tudor said, adding that Baugh likely resisted revealing his whereabouts as long as possible to protect their children.

Baugh, whose hands were bound with duct tape, was shot in the face an hour later, he told jurors.

Berry arranged for the U-Haul, which Davis drove, Tudor said. Six fingerprints were lifted from duct tape used to bind Baugh, and Davis’ DNA was recovered from the truck’s gear shift, he said, adding that cellphone records also placed them near the crime scene. Tudor did not explicitly identify the suspected shooter, but seemed to rule out Berry by noting that a black ski mask found in Berry’s car was unused and had a price tag on it.

One of Berry’s attorneys, Jared Mollenkof, told jurors his client was innocent. Berry sold drugs the day Baugh was killed, and obtained a U-Haul to move “significant” amounts of marijuana, Mollenkof said.

“What you will never see is evidence that suggests an actual motive for Mr. Cedric Berry to be involved in this shooting and murder,” he said, adding that police were under “immense pressure” to solve the case.

Robyn Gordon, one of Davis’ two attorneys, told jurors that cellphone data can’t place Davis at the scene and can’t place the phone in his hand. DNA in the truck only proves that he or someone he had contact with touched the truck, she said.

“This case against Berry Davis is the edge pieces of a jigsaw puzzle with not a lot filling out the middle,” Gordon said. “A theory is not enough to solve this terrible murder of Monique Baugh, just like the edge pieces of a puzzle isn’t the entire puzzle.”

Prosecutors told jurors that Berry is married to Davis’ sister, Shante Davis, and that the two men were close. Wiggins knew Berry Davis, prosecutors also said.

Mitchell-Momoh testified that Wiggins had signed him to his music label and that he left the label in 2019. Mitchell-Momoh said Wiggins later accused him of stealing Wiggins’ music.

The exchange concerned him so much, Mitchell-Momoh testified, that Baugh and their daughters moved out of their Coon Rapids home into a north Minneapolis townhouse owned by Baugh’s mother, Wanda Williams Baugh. He also moved out and occasionally visited the townhouse.

He also said that Wiggins had a crush on Baugh. Mitchell-Momoh and Baugh had socialized with Wiggins and Segura.

Mitchell-Momoh testified that the shooter fired over the head of his elder daughter, who was sleeping on the living room couch, and wounded him in the arm, leg and near his heart.

“You got me! I’m dead, I’m dead!” Mitchell-Momoh recalled saying.

Testimony resumes Wednesday. Wiggins, Segura and Shante Davis also are charged in the crime; their cases are pending.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708

Twitter: @ChaoStrib

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