First-degree murder indictment issued in South Pittsburg coffee shop slaying

Contributed photo by Marion County Sheriff's Office / Robert J. Bateh, 50, of Marion County, Tenn.

A man accused in the April fatal shooting of his business partner at their coffee shop in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, has been indicted by a Marion County grand jury.

Grand jurors Monday issued an indictment charging Robert John Bateh, 50, of South Pittsburg, with first-degree murder in the April 4 slaying of Kevin Brentt Hudson, 46, at Dragging Canoe Coffee Traders, the partners' business at 409 Elm Ave., according to authorities and court records.

According to an affidavit in the case filed by South Pittsburg Police Chief Wayne Jordan, Bateh killed Hudson after the two had an altercation at the coffee shop early that morning. Bateh called 911 to report the shooting, the Jordan affidavit states. The affidavit contains no further details.

The morning of the shooting, Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said the shot was fired about 8:30 a.m. CDT that day, and the initial response to the downtown business included city, county and state investigators.

photo Staff Photo by Stephen Hargis / Emergency crews respond to the scene of a shooting April 4 at Dragging Canoe Coffee Traders in South Pittsburg, Tenn.

Meanwhile, Bateh has remained free since posting a $250,000 bond April 21, officials at the Marion County Jail said Wednesday.

Twelfth Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor offered some limited details related to the charge. The district consists of Bledsoe, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Rhea and Sequatchie counties.

"The allegations was basically they were business partners and there was altercation and Hudson was killed by a single gunshot wound to the back as he was attempting to walk to his vehicle," Taylor said Wednesday in a phone interview. "His body was found next to his vehicle."

Taylor said he couldn't discuss the proof presented to the grand jury that led to the indictment.

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Bateh's lawyer, Chattanooga attorney Lee Davis, said the next court appearance for Bateh will be Aug. 15 in Circuit Court before Judge Thomas W. Graham. In that appearance Bateh will be arraigned on the indicted charge.

"We'll be entering a plea of not guilty on Aug. 15," Davis said Wednesday in a phone interview. "I'm in discussions with Mike Taylor and the District Attorney's Office and expect to receive discovery from the state by that time."

Davis said once he has reviewed the state's case evidence, he could comment further.

In his obituary, Hudson was described as a talented bluegrass musician with a "charismatic smile" who was active in the community and, along with the coffee shop, also had opened the Skunk House, a CBD and hemp business in South Pittsburg.

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.