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Prisoner in W.Va. charged in 1980 Va. slaying

WARRENTON, Va. -- Virginia authorities charged a prisoner in West Virginia on Tuesday with a slaying that has gone unsolved for more than three decades.

Court records show that Ronald Cloud, now 64, is charged with murder in the shooting death of 30-year-old Brad Baker in Fauquier County on New Year's Eve, 1980.

The Fauquier Times-Democrat reported that detectives have said Cloud confessed to killing Baker.

The newspaper's report said Baker had fired Cloud's stepfather the day of the shooting. The newspaper reported that the job loss meant that Cloud's stepfather and mother would be evicted from their home.

Baker was the manager of Kinloch Farm, an estate owned by relatives of Stephen Currier, of the famed Currier and Ives prints and banker and philanthropist Andrew Mellon. He had been on the job for 10 days.

Baker was found with bullet wounds to his head and groin, with the front-door windowpanes smashed out of the two-story farmhouse where he lived.

Fauquier County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. James Hartman told the newspaper that investigators initially suspected that Cloud's stepfather might have been involved in the shooting, but that he had a solid alibi.

The shot to the groin led investigators to speculate that the shooting might have been connected to a jilted lover. A 1983 edition of Washingtonian Magazine that focused on the slaying suggested that a failed relationship between Baker and Andrea Currier, the Mellon heiress and owner of Kinloch Farm, might have played a role in the shooting. By 1995, though, that line of investigation didn't pan out, Hartman said.

According to a criminal complaint obtained by the newspaper, Cloud went to Baker's home and acknowledged "exchanging words" with him at the front door. When Baker ran into a back bedroom, the complaint states, Cloud broke in through the front door. Investigators believe Baker fired a shotgun at Cloud, but missed. Cloud then shot and killed Baker, according to the complaint.

"Thus, the work-place violence avenue of investigation that had been previously abandoned was indeed the correct motivation for the crime," investigators said in the complaint. "However, as investigation finally revealed, it was one generation removed from the employee."

West Virginia records show that Cloud is listed as a prisoner in the Mount Olive Correctional Complex in West Virginia. He was sentenced in Hampshire County in 1988 on kidnapping, conspiracy and sexual-assault charges. The Virginia newspaper reported that Cloud is serving a life sentence for beating and chaining a woman who worked with him at a manufacturing plant in Winchester.


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