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July 22, 2013

Defense attempts to exclude videotape from murder trial

File Photo/Ellen Fox Emerson
Deputies escort Ronald Richard Cloud into court for his preliminary hearing in April.
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 charges, including murder, against Mr. Cloud in January 2013.

• Trial: Scheduled Sept. 16-20 in Fauquier County Circuit Court

• Lead defense attorney: Katherine Martell of Fairfax

• Prosecutor: Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamey E. Cook

• Next: Hearings on five defense motions at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 23
Lawyers on Tuesday will argue several important issues in a high-profile Fauquier County murder case that dates to 1980.

His attorneys will attempt to suppress the Dec. 12 videotaped confession Ronald Richard Cloud allegedly made in the murder of Kinloch Farm Manager Brad Baker near The Plains.

A retired detective for the Fauquier sheriff’s office, Don Cahill interviewed Mr. Cloud in a West Virginia prison, where he began a life sentence for abduction and rape in 1988.

“Mr. Cahill made no inquiry into the defendant’s physical or mental state at the beginning of the interrogation,” defense attorney Katherine Martell wrote in her motion to exclude the video from Mr. Cloud’s trial, which will start Sept. 16 in Fauquier County Circuit Court.

Ms. Martell further described her client telling the investigator “that he is in pain all the time and has had at least 16 heart attacks and takes 15 nitroglycerin pills a day. (The) defendant also made such nonsensical statements as ‘I have no reality’.”

Mr. Cloud “merely grunted” when Mr. Cahill asked if he understood his rights, Ms. Martell added.

“When the defendant asked if the conversation was being recorded, Mr. Cahill lied and said it was not,” the defense attorney wrote.

She will argue that Mr. Cloud’s alleged confession “was not voluntary” and obtained “through trickery.”

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamey E. Cook will argue that Mr. Cloud gave his statement voluntarily and knowingly and that the interrogation did not violate his constitutional rights.

Her 65-year-old client suffers poor health, with a history of “strokes and heart attacks,” Ms. Martell wrote.

She also will seek court-ordered mental and physical examinations of Mr. Cloud.

The “defendant may not be physically or mentally fit to stand trial,” Ms. Martell wrote.

Additionally, she will argue in support of a motion to move the trial out of Fauquier County.

Opposing a change of venue, the prosecution will argue that the defense has no proof that it would be difficult to empanel an impartial jury.

News “stories inaccurately characterize the evidence against (the) defendant, including by stating that he has confessed to murder,” Ms. Martell wrote. “News articles also inaccurately report the defendant’s alleged motive by stating that he killed Mr. Baker in retaliation for a family member’s termination from employment.”

Mr. Baker fired Mr. Cloud’s stepfather on New Year’s Eve 1980, according to testimony at the preliminary hearing in April.

Hours later, his date for a party that night found Mr. Baker with shotgun wounds to the head and groin, lying on the floor of his home just east of The Plains. He died the next day in a Washington hospital.

The case went 32 years without an arrest.

Authorities charged Mr. Cloud in January.

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