Victim texted murder suspect hours before his death to buy drugs, girlfriend tells jury

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.
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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

On the night of his death, Alexander “Alex” Cherp and his girlfriend decided to buy marijuana, but the dealers the couple usually bought from didn’t answer. “As a last-minute resort,” Cherp texted Alan Baily, his girlfriend Priyam Patel testified on Monday.

Something about Baily’s response made her uncomfortable, so they “ditched the whole plan,” she said.

But soon after, Cherp and Patel got into an argument, and Cherp left in his car.

Just before midnight on Feb. 4, 2017, Cherp was found by a security guard with two gunshot wounds to the head near his silver Mercedes in Lakewood Ranch’s Greenbrook Park. He later died at Tampa General Hospital.

A cell phone number belonging to Baily’s mother led police to develop Baily and Jose Hernandez as suspects in the fatal shooting, Assistant State Attorney Suzanne O’Donnell explained to a jury. Witnesses told detectives that Baily and Hernandez had intended to rob Cherp, when Hernandez shot him and told Baily to “finish him off.”

Baily and Hernandez were later indicted on first-degree murder and attempted robbery. Hernandez took a plea deal in October, pleading no contest to second-degree murder and attempted robbery in exchange for a 43-year prison sentence.

On Monday, the trial in the case against Baily got underway with jury selection. Just before 3 p.m., the 13 jurors, which includes one alternate, were sworn in. If convicted, Baily faces life in prison.

alan baily
Alan Baily is charged with first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery in the Feb. 4, 2017, fatal shooting of Alexander “Alex” Cherp. Provided photo

Both sides presented their opening statements to the jury, and Patel, the state’s first witness, testified.

Patel never saw Cherp again after they got into the argument and he left, she said.

“After he left, we were going through calling and texting, and eventually the calls and texts kind of stopped,” Patel said.

During the state’s opening statements, O’Donnell told the jury the evidence would should how “hanging with the wrong crowd” ultimately cost Cherp his life.

Cherp car
Alex Cherp’s gray 2012 Mercedes-Benz. Provided photo

“It was all because of his car, because Alex had a nice car,” O’Donnell said.

Baily decided he wanted a nice car, and he had a conversation on Facebook telling someone he had $18,000 and asking if that person had a Mercerdes or BMW. The jury will get to read this conversation and hear the other person testify.

Defense attorney William Wells countered that during his opening statements, telling the jury that Baily had his own car and that there is no physical evidence that is essential in linking Baily to the fatal shooting.

“The state’s case is as full of holes as Swiss cheese,” Wells said. “Alan Baily didn’t take the car. It makes absolutely no sense.”

The trial is expected to resume at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, with the state attorney’s office continuing to present its case against Baily.

The trial is expected to go all week.

Jessica De Leon has been covering crime, courts and law enforcement for the Bradenton Herald since 2013. She has won numerous awards for her coverage including the Florida Press Club’s Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting in 2016 for her coverage into the death of 11-year-old Janiya Thomas.