LYNNWOOD — After two hung juries, prosecutors plan to take a Chicago woman to trial a third time for the early 2021 killing of a man outside of a Fred Meyer in Lynnwood.
Shayla Baylor, 28, was accused of fatally stabbing Greg McKnight in his legs after an argument over parking. Prosecutors charged her with second-degree murder — and two trials ended with jurors unable to reach a verdict in October 2022 and April 2023.
In court Monday, Baylor rejected a plea deal that would have convicted her of a lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter. She would have faced a sentence of eight to 10 years. She has already served two years in jail.
In January 2021, McKnight went to Fred Meyer to buy cat food, according to charges filed in Snohomish County Superior Court. The 62-year-old man, who was disabled, parked in the accessible spot closest to the store. He used an electric scooter to get around the store.
While exiting, McKnight noticed a silver Nissan Sentra parked right next to his car, on top of the lines dividing the space, blocking him from getting back in his car, according to the charges. Witnesses reported there were four people inside the Nissan, including Baylor in the passenger seat.
Everything that happened next has been heavily disputed in court.
Prosecutors claimed the group of people in the car got into an argument with McKnight over the parking space. McKnight appeared exhausted and couldn’t keep his balance, leaning against his car to help him stand, according to the charges.
Baylor was in a “fit of rage,” prosecutors alleged. Baylor’s girlfriend, who was the driver of the Nissan, tried to get her to leave the man alone, but she wouldn’t.
According to the charges, Baylor crouched down in a “predatory stance” and allegedly stabbed McKnight’s legs. McKnight turned around, furious, witnesses reported. He took a couple steps forward. Bleeding, he moved “slow and deliberate,” according to the charges.
Prosecutors alleged she continued to stab at McKnight. A bystander got in between Baylor and McKnight, according to court papers. Baylor and the group left the area.
McKnight was taken to a hospital where he died.
Snohomish County Medical Examiner J. Matthew Lacy identified three cuts during the autopsy: two smaller ones on McKnight’s right leg and a larger, lethal cut on his left leg. All of the wounds were on the back of his legs.
The fatal cut on his left leg was nearly half-a-foot deep and severed his femoral artery. Lacy noted even if the cut happened right outside a hospital, it would have been difficult to save McKnight.
According to Baylor’s attorneys, she was reacting to protect herself and her girlfriend from someone who made racist remarks, acted aggressively and eventually attacked both of them.
The defense claimed McKnight “exploded” in frustration about their parking. Witnesses reported hearing him call them the N-word. He reportedly said he was going to “teach them a lesson.” He allegedly placed his electric cart behind Baylor’s girlfriend’s car so she couldn’t reverse out of the spot.
Baylor moved in between her partner and McKnight, arming herself with a knife she kept in her door handle, according to Baylor’s lawyers. McKnight reportedly lunged at her, and she dodged out of the way, stabbing him in the leg. He grabbed on to her door, and she stabbed him again in the left leg. The group left, driving to California without stopping.
A week later, police arrested Baylor in Oakland, California. Police served a warrant on her phone, which contained images of her holding a 15-inch combat knife covered in blood, taken one minute after the assault, according to court documents.
Included in her search history were articles about the stabbing, a video of the defendant singing about how “homicides were placed on her” and a video of news headlines about the case displayed with the Drake song “Headlines” playing in the background, according to police.
In a recorded interview with police, Baylor acknowledged stabbing McKnight. She said she wasn’t trying to kill him, but he was “ten times my size” and approaching them. She reported she was trying to protect herself and her girlfriend, according to court documents. Baylor is 5 feet tall, while McKnight was 6 feet tall and over 300 pounds.
Baylor told investigators people abused her all her life. That fueled her reaction to McKnight’s alleged aggression.
Witnesses reported she was behind McKnight, according to court documents. They also noted all of the wounds were on the back of his legs, indicating she wasn’t in fear for her life — one of the necessary factors in self-defense.
“Excusable homicide is not available if you have acted negligently, recklessly, or intentionally,” prosecutors wrote.
In September, Baylor’s first trial for second-degree murder took place. One of the jurors, Jennifer Bardsley, said the deliberations were hung up because of one juror. The juror believed the defendant was “95% guilty” but felt the remaining wiggle room was enough for reasonable doubt, Bardsley said.
Bardsley used to be a columnist for The Daily Herald. After the trial, she wrote an article about her experience at the trial.
During Baylor’s second trial in April, jurors submitted notes expressing their confusion over different legal terms.
“Can we get a legal dictionary?” one note read.
After a two-week trial, the jury deliberated for 2½ days but was deadlocked again.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Paul Thompson declared a mistrial on April 14.
Baylor initially considered a plea deal, her attorneys said. But her lawyers said in court that she wasn’t given enough time to think about it. Deputy prosecutor Hal Hupp noted the lesser charge offered a significant reduction in her potential sentence.
A third trial is set for October.