DUNLAP, TN – The man and woman accused of killing 55-year-old Clifford “Roddy” Carden on Feb. 2 for $1,000 and a stash of drugs will be arraigned Friday morning in Sequatchie County Circuit Court.
Earlier this week, a Sequatchie County grand jury indicted both Susan Lynette Baker, 35, and Thomas Bryan Bettis, 35, on first-degree murder charges.
Bettis remains in custody, courthouse sources said Thursday afternoon.
However, Susan Baker – who told investigators that she had been the victim of domestic abuse inflicted by the man she admitted killing – remains free on $150,000 bond.
Carden – a drug dealer, according to testimony during a preliminary hearing in February – was shot and killed with his own gun as he drove his 1996 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Ms. Baker, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, fired the fatal shot, assistant district attorney general Steve Strain said during the hearing.
Bettis, riding in the back, helped Ms. Baker dispose of the body and then went with her to the Dunlap Walmart where they spent a sizable chunk of the $1,006 they stole from the victim.
The couple then “shacked up” for several days in Mountain Inn and Suites, according to the prosecutor.
But on Feb. 8, the assistant district attorney said, Bettis showed up at the Sequatchie County Sheriff’s office and confessed to his role in Carden’s death and subsequent events.
Ms. Baker, interviewed later, admitted shooting Carden, according to the prosecutor. However, she insisted that the plan was to steal his money and the illegal drugs the victim had been planning to sell, he noted.
In court, neither of the defense attorneys denied their clients’ respective roles in the killing and subsequent robbery. But defense attorney Rob Philyaw, who was appointed to represent Ms. Baker, hinted at the strategy he will use to represent his client.
Isn’t it true, attorney Philyaw asked Investigator Joe Lockhart of the Sequatchie County Sheriff’s Department – the only witness to take the stand – that Ms. Baker told officers she had been subjected to domestic abuse by the man she killed?
“She said something like that,” the officer replied.
Officer Lockhart staunchly denied attorney Philyaw’s questions regarding whether Ms. Baker was under the influence of drugs at the time she was questioned. However, he finally acknowledged under intense questioning that he had heard reports she went through withdrawal after being put in jail.
Public Defender Jeff Harman, representing Bettis, acknowledged that his client helped dispose of the dead man’s body by dumping it into the Sequatchie River under Pickett Bridge and then went to Wal-Mart with Ms. Baker and then spent several days with her in the motel.
However, the attorney continued, Bettis was afraid to not do what Ms. Baker wanted because she kept the dead man’s gun with her at all times and he thought she might shoot him, too.
The two, who had been involved in an off-and-on sexual relationship for months, went their separate ways after leaving the motel, attorneys agreed.
During the time before he turned himself in, according to testimony, Bettis reportedly talked to a lawyer.
Ms. Baker reportedly went back to Soddy-Daisy, where she is a resident, and was found hiding in a friend’s home by police who had gotten a tip about her whereabouts.