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October 15, 2013

Baker murder defendant “incompetent” to stand trail

File Photo/Ellen Fox Emerson
Fauquier deputies escort Ronald Richard Cloud to his preliminary hearing in April.
Kinloch Farm Manager Brad Baker, 30, died Jan. 1, 1981, in a Washington hospital, the day after he suffered shotgun wounds to the head and groin.
It’s one of those necessary legal steps that we have to take to make sure the result in the case is final. I’m hopeful and confident Central State will return him to competency so we can return to court.
— Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Fisher
Baker Murder Case
• Defendant: Ronald Richard Cloud, 65, serving life sentence for abduction and rape since 1988 in West Virginia.

• Victim: Brad Baker, 30, manager of Kinloch Farm east of The Plains.

• Details: Mr. Baker suffered shotgun wounds to head and groin Dec. 31, 1980, in his house at Kinloch. He died the next day.

• Investigation: Led to four felony charges, including first-degree murder, against Mr. Cloud in January 2013.

• Trial: Originally scheduled for November in Fauquier County Circuit Court.

• Latest development: Defendant found incompetent to stand trail and committed to Central State Hospital in Petersburg for six months of treatment and continued evaluation. Report due April 24, 2014.

• Lead defense attorney: Katherine Martell of Fairfax

• Lead prosecutor: Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher

• Judge: Jeffrey W. Parker
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
A forensic neurologist has found the defendant in Fauquier County’s most famous murder case mentally incompetent to stand trial.

A judge on Friday ordered Ronald Richard Cloud, 65, committed to Central State Hospital in Petersburg for treatment.

Mr. Cloud allegedly killed a farm manager near The Plains with two shotgun blasts on New Year’s Eve 1980. Brad Baker, 30, died the next day.

Sentenced in 1988 to life in prison for abduction and rape in West Virginia, Mr. Cloud last December allegedly confessed to murdering Mr. Baker during interviews with a Fauquier sheriff’s investigator.

Family members at an April preliminary hearing testified that just hours after Mr. Baker fired the defendant’s stepfather, Mr. Cloud killed the Kinloch Farm manager. That testimony portrayed Mr. Cloud’s late mother as pushing for retaliation.

Ernest C. Cloud testified that he went to Kinloch Farm that night with his brother and witnessed the murder.

But, in July, defense attorney Katherine Martell pushed for and won a judge’s order for a mental competency evaluation of her client.

Mr. Cloud has exhibited signs of “a form of dementia,” Ms. Martell told Fauquier County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker

She said Mr. Cloud can’t effectively participate in his defense because of memory loss and fantasies.

Judge Parker ordered the evaluation.

Because of evidence that Mr. Cloud may have suffered one or more strokes, his case got passed from a Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services board clinical psychiatrist to Scott D. Bender at U.Va.

A forensic neurologist, Dr. Bender examined the defendant last month in Charlottesville.

Based on his evaluation report, which remains sealed, the judge ordered Mr. Cloud transferred from the regional jail at Winchester to Central State.

The state mental hospital staff will “provide treatment efforts to restore competency as well as write a report of their findings,” according to the judge’s order.

Mr. Cloud’s case will return to court April 24.

“It’s one of those necessary legal steps that we have to take to make sure the result in the case is final,” Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher said. “I’m hopeful and confident Central State will restore him to competency so we can return to court.”

Ms. Martell, the defense attorney, did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages asking for her comments.

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