A look back: Tips and a brother’s confession lead to a break in 1980 New Year’s Eve murder

On New Year’s Eve in 1980, 30-year-old Brad Baker, an Indiana native, lost his life just before going on a date with a Virginia radiologist. It took authorities over 30 years to close the case, but their resolve and determination paid off when tips led them to the killer.

Shortly before Christmas in 1980, Baker, who studied agricultural economics at Virginia Tech, landed a job at Kinloch Farm in The Plains, Va., according to New York Daily News. Kinloch Farm is a 2,000 acre horse and cattle farm, where Baker worked his “dream job” as a manager.

On the night of the murder, a local radiologist, recently separated from her husband, drove to Kinloch Farm to meet Baker for a date, but she found him lying lifeless in a puddle of his own blood with a gunshot to his head and groin.

“Based on the evidence we have, it looks like a grudge killing,”Fauquier County sheriff Luther Cox said at the time. “It’s the kind of thing a jealous husband might do.”

Ronald Richard Cloud, now 67, was the stepson of James Allen, a man recently fired from Kinloch Farm, shortly before Baker took over as manager. On the very day Allen was fired, Baker was killed.

Brad Baker [Photo: Police Handout]
Police rounded up dozens of other workers at the farm for questioning, but none of them could find a reason why the newly-hired Baker would have been killed. After the workers were cleared of any involvement, detectives turned their attention to anyone who may have held a grudge against Baker. They met a dead end when they also cleared the radiologist’s husband.

Without additional leads, the case fizzled into a cold case. Although detectives never gave up, they were stuck without strong evidence that would lead them to the suspect. They got a break in 1995 when a tipster called a sheriff in a neighboring county and said that Cloud, along with his brother, Ernest Cloud, drove 60 miles from West Va. to Kinloch Farm to murder Baker.

The tipster said the motive behind the shooting was Allen losing his job at the farm. The tipster also confirmed Cloud was Allen’s stepson. Fauqier Now reports that Allen’s mother later lost her home due to Allen’s termination.

It took detectives another seven years to build a case against Cloud after the tip. In 2012, Ernest Cloud, who claimed he couldn’t live with the “nightmare” anymore, came forward and admitted he rode along with his brother and witnessed the murder, which happened after their mother, Mary Frances Allen, became extremely upset when her husband was fired. Apparently, their mother told the suspect over the phone that “Brad Baker needed to be taken care of.”

“I got a phone call from my brother about going with him to Brad Baker’s,” Ernest Cloud later testified.

With a sawed-off, 20-gauge shotgun in hand, Ron Cloud walked up to Baker’s driveway on Dec. 31, 1980. When Baker answered, Ron Cloud “said we’d had an accident and needed help,” according to Ernest Cloud.

Baker, sensing something was off, went to his bedroom and grabbed a shotgun. He then confronted the brothers, and both Baker and Ron Cloud started firing their guns at each at the same time.

“It happened so quickly, I could not tell who shot first,” Ernest Cloud said. “I recall that after Brad Baker had fell, my brother walked up and shot him a second time in the groin and said that would make it look like a hate crime.”

Ernest Cloud said he fired his gun twice at the insistence of his brother. For his testimony, Ernest Cloud was given immunity.

“Even walking down the road to [Mr. Baker’s] house, I told my brother, ‘We shouldn’t be doing this’.”

It wasn’t hard for authorities to locate the suspect. In 1988, he received a life sentence for raping and kidnapping a child, and was housed in a West Virginia prison.

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In Sept. 2014, after a 6-month stay at the Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Ron Cloud admitted to the murder during his trial.

“I am sorry that it happened,” Ron Cloud said during his sentencing. “I didn’t go there to kill Brad Baker. He kept trying to shoot me.”

For his guilty plea, Ron Cloud received a life sentence behind bars.

“Brad had so much promise, and I think that it’s with great sadness we’re here at a time when he would have been 60 years old,” the victim’s sister, Blythe Patenaude, said at the suspect’s trial.

[Feature Photo: Ronald Cloud/Police Handout]