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Judge allows confession tape in Baker murder trial

Friday, Aug. 22 | By Mark Grandstaff | Google+
Ronald Richard Cloud
After a one-year delay, the confession tape of a man accused of murdering Brad Baker 33 years ago will play at his Oct. 28 trial.

In circuit court today, Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. rebuffed an attempt to deny the confession tape of Ronald Cloud, 66. On Dec. 31, 1980, Cloud allegedly shot and killed Baker after Baker fired Cloud's father from Kinloch Farm in The Plains.

The tape, a filmed interview of Cloud with Fauquier Sheriff's detective Donald Cahill, purportedly shows Cloud admitting that he killed Baker.

On Friday, Cloud's attorney, Meredith Ralls, said the tape was not valid evidence because Cloud wasn't mentally sound.

Ralls said she doubted the filmed confession's authenticity, because prior to the interview, Cloud had a stroke which resulted in a vascular neurocognitive disorder.

She said, "He was coherent, but not logical," then she quoted Cloud as saying that he was "an angel of God, who can kill with his thoughts."

Scott Bender, an associate neurological professor at University of Virginia, evaluated him and determined he was not competent, Ralls said.

Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Jamey Cook said his mental illness was no longer in question. Doctors at Central State Hospital evaluated him for five months, and decided he had no major memory or cognitive deficit, she said.

"One stroke does not equal vascular dementia," said Cook.

Cloud, whose eyeglass rims appeared to be layered in tape, muttered audibly to his attorney throughout Cook's discourse.

In April, Cloud was found competent to stand trial.

Whisenant said, "I don't find that he was impaired at that particular time," then denied the defense's plea to toss out the video confession.

Charged with first-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, burglary of a house with intent to rape or murder and occupying a building/malicious shooting, Cloud's next step is a four-day jury trial starting Oct. 28.

Cloud already serves a life sentence at Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Mount Olive, W.Va., convicted of kidnapping, beating, chaining and sexually assaulting a woman who worked with him at a manufacturing plant in Winchester.

In a May 2013 hearing, Cloud's brother Ernest testified that 30 years ago he had a pistol, and Ronald had a shotgun when they drove to Baker's house to "take care of Baker."

Ernest said Baker had a shotgun too, and both Ronald and Baker shot at each other. He wasn't sure who shot first because he admitted he had been drinking heavily. Ernest shot toward Baker as well.

Baker died the next day from his injuries.

The Cloud brothers agreed to secrecy, but when police questioned Ernest again in 2012, he ended the pact.

"Brad Baker needs closure, Brad Baker's family needs closure," said Ernest in court in 2013. "And I need closure. I wanted finally to be healed again."

At that same court hearing, witnesses said the murder stemmed from Baker firing James Allen from Kinloch Farms, after which Allen's daughter, Colleen Holland, heard him giving a person permission to take care of someone.

Holland later questioned Cloud, who admitted to the crime, but grabbed her throat, pinning her against a door and said he would kill her if she told anyone, according to Holland.

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