Brad Baker had the particular attract of the good-looking stranger on the town when his date arrived to choose him up at his place in Virginia hunt nation on New 12 months’s Eve 1980.
Baker, 31, an Indiana native, made his strategy to the Previous Dominion within the 1970s to review agricultural economics at Virginia Tech.
He utilized his research in a sequence of farm-management jobs amid the manure-chic estates west of Washington, D.C., the place he grew to become generally known as an early-adapting environmentalist and farm-to-table advocate.
The charming, mop-topped newcomer moved simply between the manicured homeowners and their dirty-nailed employed arms. He wore bib overalls and enterprise fits equally effectively.
Simply earlier than Christmas in 1980, Baker landed a dream job as supervisor of Kinloch Farm, a 2,000-acre property in The Plains, Va., owned by the Currier household, heirs to the Andrew Mellon fortune.
Ten days later, his New 12 months’s Eve date with a radiologist from the native hospital — just lately separated from her husband — was to be a celebration of his new place.
The physician arrived punctually at 9 p.m. at Baker’s small dwelling at Kinloch. She stepped by the unlocked door when he didn’t reply and located him in a crimson puddle, with ghastly shotgun wounds to his head and groin.
He was helicoptered to a Washington hospital however was past saving and died the following day.
The homicide was a puzzler.
Nothing was lacking from the home. However a door had been damaged down, and there have been indicators of a battle and extra shotgun blasts.
The Fauquier County sheriff and state police rounded up three dozen Kinloch workers, however nobody may think about that Baker had incited such enmity in his temporary time on the job. On the insistence of the homeowners, he had fired an older farmhand, James Allen, on the day he was killed, however everybody appeared to agree the sacking was overdue.
Allen was interviewed however dismissed as a suspect.
The sheriff, Luther Cox, recommended to the press that the shot to the groin was a big clue. He all however declared the sufferer a cattleman Lothario.
“Primarily based on the proof now we have, it appears like a grudge killing,” Cox mentioned. “It’s the form of factor a jealous husband may do.”
Investigators chased a number of love triangle leads, together with the partner of the radiologist, however every led to a cul-de-sac. Gossip about Baker simmered in Washington lengthy after the investigation was on ice.
In 1983, Washingtonian journal printed a bodice-ripping account of Baker’s life and dying, “Blood and Cash within the Hunt Nation.” The article included new musings by Sheriff Cox about whether or not Baker was the sufferer of an expert hit. Oddly, the writer known as his homicide a “love story.”
The investigation was DOA till 1995, when a cold-case angel dropped a dime.
The tipster, who was going by a nasty divorce, known as the sheriff in an adjoining Virginia county and recognized Baker’s killers because the tipster’s brothers-in-law, Ernest and Ronald Cloud. He mentioned the boys drove 60 miles from Capon Bridge, W.Va., to Kinloch Farm and shot Baker as a result of the farmhand he had fired that day was the Clouds’ stepfather.
As prosecutor James Fisher would later say, “There was no motivation of a romantic nature or sexual nature in any respect.”
But it might take most of a decade for Fauquier County authorities to behave on the tip — after a brand new sheriff and prosecutor have been elected.
Ronald Cloud was not tough to seek out. In 1988, at age 40, he was locked up for all times in West Virginia for the kidnapping and rape of a kid.
In 2012, Ernest Cloud admitted to a grand jury that his brother shot Baker. A number of months later, Ronald Cloud confessed in jail to sheriff’s Investigator Donald Cahill.
“He acknowledged that upon arrival at Baker’s residence. . . (Cloud) exchanged phrases on the entrance door with Mr. Baker, and when Mr. Baker ran right into a again bed room, Cloud broke within the entrance door, entered the residence, and, in an alternate of gunfire, he shot Mr. Baker,” Cahill wrote in an affidavit.
At a 2013 court docket listening to, Ernest Cloud testified that he and his brother chugged beers as they barreled towards Kinloch Farm on their quixotic mission to actual revenge on behalf of their stepfather and mom, who confronted eviction from the Kinloch property on account of the firing.
Ernest Cloud mentioned they knocked at Baker’s door and requested for assist, feigning a automobile accident. Baker was suspicious and ran to get his shotgun. Ronald Cloud pulled a sawed-off shotgun from underneath his coat and rushed inside, and the boys exchanged photographs. Cloud was hit in a prosthetic hand earlier than firing the photographs that will kill Baker.
“It occurred so rapidly,” Ernest Cloud testified. “I couldn’t inform who shot first.”
In September 2014, 34 years after the homicide, Ronald Cloud pleaded responsible.
“I’m sorry that it occurred,” he mentioned at sentencing. “I didn’t go there to kill Brad Baker. He saved attempting to shoot me.”
Baker first was blamed for his personal homicide by sexual insinuation. Now he was being blamed by the armed intruder who shot him in his personal home.
Choose Herman Whisenant Jr. minimize Cloud quick and despatched him to jail for all times — for the second time.