More than three years after Bledsoe County resident Clifford “Roddy” Carden Jr. was murdered on Feb. 2, 2011, in southern Sequatchie County, a murder trial for the Graysville woman accused of firing the shot that killed him is finally underway.
Jurors spent most of the day Wednesday listening to a series of prosecution witnesses, many of them law enforcement personnel. They were also trying to make sense of a videotape that showed two officers interrogating Susan Lynette Baker shortly after her arrest six days after the fatal shooting.
During that interview, Ms. Baker admitted she was the one who fired the shot that killed Mr. Carden. Later in the day, prosecutors rested and the defense began presenting its proof. The trial will resume Thursday morning.
According to evidence, Ms. Baker was arrested after her accomplice, Whitwell resident Thomas Bettis, approached Sequatchie County authorities and told them that Ms. Baker shot the victim with his own gun while he was giving her and Bettis a ride in his 1996 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Bettis reportedly told police he helped Ms. Baker dump the body in the Sequatchie River, where it was later found, because he was afraid she might also kill him.
The lengthy interview with Ms. Baker began almost gently, the videotape showed, with Sequatchie County Investigator Jody Lockhart telling her that Bettis already had been interviewed and identified her as the killer.
“Now we want to know your side, that’s all we want,” Officer Lockhart told the defendant as she sat hunched under a large blanket in an interrogation room chair.
Ms. Baker, who cried intermittently throughout the sometimes incoherent session, appeared confused and unable to recall details. Occasionally, as she attempted to explain what happened, her voice gradually become fogged with emotion and, eventually, rose to an unintelligible wail.
As the interview proceeded it became increasingly strident, with officers confronting Ms. Baker when she made statements they said they knew could not be true.
“We understand that you’re scared,” Officer Lockhart told her at one point, “but we already know quite a bit. We’re pretty good policemen, we’ve been at this for a while . . . . (Bettis) didn’t kill Clifford. You killed Clifford. Didn’t you?”
Jurors, like others in the courtroom, appeared to have trouble understanding some of the dialogue on the videotape.
During one break, the judge told attorneys out of the jury’s presence, a juror had approached a court officer and asked if they could get a transcript.
The answer to that question, he and attorneys agreed, was no.
“We don’t have a verified copy of the transcript,” the judge explained to jurors after they returned to the courtroom. “This videotape is the best evidence we have, and you are to rely on the best evidence.”
Throughout the afternoon Ms. Baker, whose head was not turned toward the video, sat silent and unmoving. In the courtroom behind her, however, some observers appeared to become increasingly riled.
A stout man sitting close to the front of the courtroom on the prosecutor’s side, for example, watched the video closely. Every few minutes, however, he turned toward the defense table and, frowning, stared intently at the back of Ms. Baker’s head.