published Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Slaying defendant's trial set for March

Defendants in the slaying of Clifford M. Carden Jr., Susan Lynette Baker, in tan at left, and Thomas Bryan Bettis, right in tan, talk with their lawyers during a break in the hearing before General Sessions Judge L. Thomas Austin in this file photo.
Defendants in the slaying of Clifford M. Carden Jr., Susan Lynette Baker, in tan at left, and Thomas Bryan Bettis, right in tan, talk with their lawyers during a break in the hearing before General Sessions Judge L. Thomas Austin in this file photo.
Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

One of the two people charged in the slaying of a 55-year-old Bledsoe County man in February has a trial date.

Susan Lynette Baker, 35 at the time of her arrest and now free on $150,000 bond, will face trial March 19 in Sequatchie County Circuit Court, officials said.

Investigators identified Baker, of Graysville, Tenn., as the shooter in Clifford M. Carden's death.

Baker is charged with felony murder, especially aggravated robbery and setting fire to personal property.

She was arrested along with Whitwell-area resident Thomas Bryan Bettis, also 35 at the time of the arrests, who faces the same charges. No trial date has been set in Bettis' case, and he remains in custody on $100,000 bond, officials said.

Records show Baker's trial is expected to last three days, Sequatchie County Circuit Court Clerk Karen Millsaps said Monday.

Assistant District Attorney Steve Strain said the defendants will be tried separately.

  • photo
    Susan L. Baker and Thomas Bryan Bettis are charged with felony murder in the death of Clifford M. Carden Jr.

Bettis' next appearance is a plea and assignment date set for Sept. 30, she said.

Authorities said Carden had been shot once in the head and his body dumped in the Sequatchie River. His burned-out car was found about 10 miles away on Savage Point Road.

Baker had romantic relationships with both Carden and Bettis, but the motive in the killing was Carden's money, detectives said during the pair's Feb. 23 hearing in General Sessions Court.

Sequatchie County Sheriff's Office lead investigator Jody Lockhart testified in February that Baker told police she intended to rob Carden, not kill him. Lockhart testified that Baker talked about riding with Carden to pick up Bettis, then going to south Sequatchie County where the fatal shot was fired.

Lockhart testified that Baker said she found a 9 mm Taurus pistol under the car seat.

As Bettis sat in the back seat, Baker said, Carden grabbed her left arm and she drew the gun from her jacket pocket with her right hand and shot Carden in the right side of the head, Lockhart testified.

The pair took $1,005 from Carden's car and spent it at the local Walmart and to pay for a three-night stay at a local motel, according to testimony.

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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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