FAUQUIER, Va. – Fauquier County Sheriff’s investigators say a West Virginia man has confessed to the 1980 shooting death of Brad Baker, calling it premeditated murder.
Arrest warrants for murder and related charges were filed Tuesday against Ronald Richard Cloud, 64, an inmate at Mt. Olive Correctional Center in West Virginia. Police credited new investigative techniques and new lines of inquiry in 2012, which led to Cloud’s confession, more than 30 years later.
“Our family and friends have waited a long time for this day,” said Baker’s sister Blythe Patenaude. “You cannot imagine the pain, agony, grief.”
Patenaude joined sheriff’s investigators and the county prosecutor to announce the initial charges at a news conference Tuesday.
Officials are seeking to extradite Cloud from West Virginia and a preliminary hearing has not been scheduled yet. The case must go before a grand jury before he would be formally indicted.
According to the criminal complaint outlining the county’s case, Cloud drove to Virginia after dark and during a snowstorm armed with a shotgun to confront Baker, his stepfather’s boss. Baker had fired Cloud’s stepfather earlier that New Year’s Eve day and his family faced eviction in the middle of the winter.
Cloud told investigators that he and Baker “exchanged words” at the front door of Baker’s two-story farmhouse. When Baker ran to a back bedroom, Cloud broke in the front door and entered the home, the complaint said.
“In an exchange of gunfire, he shot Mr. Baker,” court records said.
Baker was found with shots to his head and groin, with the front door window panes smashed out.
Baker, 32, had just taken the job of managing Kinloch Farm, a sprawling estate in Northern Fauquier owned by the Currier family, descendents of Andrew Mellon and Stephen Currier, of the famed Currier and Ives prints. About 50 other employees lived on the farm, including Cloud’s mother and stepfather.
Investigators initially considered a romantic or sexual motive for the crime, because of the wound to Baker’s groin. But exhaustive rounds of investigations, including efforts in 1995, ruled out that possibility, court records said.
Investigators also considered whether the shooting was in retaliation of Cloud’s stepfather’s dismissal. But his stepfather provided police with an alibi and he was quickly ruled out as a suspect, according to the criminal complaint.
Cloud told investigators that his stepfather had no involvement in his plan to kill Baker, court documents said.
In the charging documents, police say that Cloud willfully, deliberately and with premeditation killed Baker.
In addition to the murder charge, Cloud also faces initial charges of use of a firearm during the commission of a felony, burglary, and maliciously discharging a firearm in an occupied building.
Cloud is serving time in a West Virginia prison for convictions for kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, malicious assault and sexual assault, according to the West Virginia Division of Corrections.