published Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Susan Baker convicted of murder in 2011 Sequatchie County shooting

DUNLAP, Tenn. — A Sequatchie County jury deliberated for more than two hours this afternoon before finding a woman guilty of felony murder and other counts in the 2011 slaying of 55-year-old Clifford Carden Jr.

Susan L. Baker was convicted of the killing and on one count each of especially aggravated robbery and setting fire to personal property. The felony murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Previous story:

DUNLAP, Tenn. — After more than two days of testimony, Susan L. Baker's murder case went to the jury at 1:10 p.m. CST today.

Baker is charged in the Feb. 2, 2011, slaying of 55-year-old Clifford Carden Jr. with felony murder, especially aggravated robbery and setting fire to personal property, along with codefendent Bryan Bettis, whose case has been separated from Baker's.

In Thursday's testimony, Baker's lawyer, Sam Hudson, called Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock, corrections officer Stacy Slave, and Baker's father and son to talk about Baker's condition and behavior following the killing and on the day she was arrested.

The defense and prosecutors agreed that testimony and evidence in the case regarding Baker's being the person who fired the fatal shot.

In closing statements, Assistant District attorneys David Shinn and Steve Strain told jurors that Baker's intention to rob Carden was a key consideration in their deliberations on the associated felony murder charge because the two are linked for a felony murder conviction.

He said her statements and the fact that she had Carden's gun when he and she picked up Bettis and the trio took their fateful drive indicated her intentions.

Hudson told jurors Baker never intended to rob Carden and that she fired the shot that killed him after he grabbed her arm in the car she, Carden and Bettis were riding in the area of Cartwright Gulf in South Sequatchie County.

Hudson contended that the acts that followed — disposal of Carden's body in the Sequatchie River, taking $1,005 dollars from Carden's car and other items from him home, and setting fire to the Carden's car in a remote area — were all a "string of events that happened after the killing."

The jury is composed of eight women and four men.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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