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April 28, 2014

Baker murder defendant found competent for trial

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Ronald Richard Cloud, 66, will stand trial in late October for the 1980 shotgun murder of Brad Baker on a farm just east of The Plains.
Brad Baker died Jan. 1, 1981, in a Washington hospital.
The attack took place in this Kinloch Farm house, since demolished.
Baker murder case
• Defendant: Ronald Richard Cloud, 66, 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: Scheduled Oct. 28-31 in Fauquier County Circuit Court

• Defense attorney: Katherine Martell and Meredith Ralls of FirstPoint Law Group in Fairfax

• Prosecutor: Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamey Cook

• Judge: Jeffrey W. Parker

• Next: Friday, Aug. 22, judge will hear defense motions, including those to exclude a videotaped interview and alleged confession and to move the trial from Fauquier.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Editor
Treatment in a state mental hospital has “restored” the defendant’s competency to stand trial in Fauquier’s most famous murder case, a judge ruled Monday.

Convicted felon Ronald Richard Cloud’s jury trial will start Oct. 28 in Fauquier County Circuit Court.

Mr. Cloud allegedly shot Brad Baker, a 30-year-old farm manager, just outside The Plains on New Year’s Eve 1980.

Mr. Baker died the next afternoon in a Washington hospital, and his murder remained unsolved until early last year.

Sheriff’s investigators said Mr. Cloud committed the murder in retaliation for his stepfather’s firing from Kinloch Farm earlier on Dec. 31, 1980.

The defendant allegedly confessed during a December 2012 interview in a West Virginia prison, where he serves a life sentence for a 1988 kidnapping and rape.

Judge Jeffrey W. Parker last October ordered Mr. Cloud, 66, sent to Central State Hospital in Petersburg for treatment after a University of Virginia forensic neurologist found him incompetent to stand trial.

Based on “a lengthy and thorough report” from Central State clinicians, Judge Parker on Monday ruled that treatment has restored Mr. Cloud’s competency. Psychologists found the defendant can understand the proceedings and can participate in his defense, the judge said.

“Thank you,” said Mr. Cloud, nodding Monday afternoon as he sat at the defense table in a green jumpsuit from the Winchester regional jail.

Defense attorney Meredith Ralls tried to argue the point but quickly retreated.

“It seems to address all the issues,” Judge Parker said of the Central State report, which remains sealed. “I can’t see any good that would be served by sending him back.”

Mr. Cloud suffers a range of health issues, according to his lawyers. He has memory loss and had exhibited signs of “vascular dementia” after a series of apparent “mini-strokes,” lead defense attorney Katherine Martell told the judge in July when she successfully pushed for the mental exam that found him incompetent to stand trial.

The court has scheduled four days, Oct. 28-31, for Mr. Cloud’s trial.

His defense team first will attempt to exclude sheriff’s Detective Donald Cahill’s videotaped interview, in which Mr. Cloud allegedly confesses to the murder.

The judge also will consider a motion to move the trial out of Fauquier because of publicity the case has generated.

Lawyers will argue those motions Aug. 22.

At the preliminary hearing in April 2013, Mr. Cloud’s brother testified that he rode along on the New Year’s Eve trip from West Virginia to Kinloch Farm.

Ernest Cloud said his older brother shot Mr. Baker first in the head, then in the groin with a 20-guage shotgun.

Before his fatal head wound, the farm manager also fired his shotgun at the intruders.

Ronald Cloud fired a second blast into Mr. Baker’s groin to make it look like a crime of passion, the defendant's brother said.

The second brother said he remained on the porch outside, but Ronald Cloud insisted he also fire his gun. He recounted firing two rounds from a revolver into the house.

Facing no charge for his alleged involvement, Ernest Cloud testified that he drank eight beers on the way to Fauquier and hoped his brother would calm down before they reached the farm that night.

“Even walking down the road to (Mr. Baker’s) house, I told my brother, ‘We shouldn’t be doing this’,” the younger brother testified in April 2013.

On the way home to West Virginia in a driving snowstorm, they stopped several times to throw out their guns and Ronald Cloud’s prosthetic left hand, damaged in the gunfight, Ernest Cloud said.

Ronald Cloud lost a most of his hand in the Vietnam War, according to Ms. Martell.

He has remained behind bars the last 26 years.
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