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J'can woman gets 20 yrs for killing lover - Enters surprise guilty plea

DIONNE BAUGH, 35, A Jamaican residing in Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment on Monday, September 27, after surprisingly pleading guilty to killing her lover, Lance Herdon, a wealthy Roswell, Georgia, businessman in 1996.

Baugh pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced in the Fulton County Court in Atlanta to 10 years' imprisonment and 10 years' probation. Baugh could have faced an automatic life sentence if she had been convicted of murder. She was initially was convicted of murder by a Fulton jury in 2000, but that conviction later was overturned due to improper hearsay testimony by a police officer.

Lead prosecutor, Clint Rucker, had said that Baugh, then married to a pilot, was chasing after Herndon's wealth and flew into a rage when he wanted to take back his Mercedes and credit card.

Baugh's attorneys, Tony Axam and Don Samuel, argued that Herndon had several lovers and financial troubles, giving plenty of others a motive to kill him. During her second trial last year Baugh's lawyers managed to convince a few jurors that there was reasonable doubt and a mistrial was declared.

The third trial was supposed to have started start on Monday, September 27, 2004.

Herndon was the chief executive officer of Access Inc., a computer consulting firm. He had such influential friends that Roswell police received calls from federal law enforcement officials offering to help solve the case.

Accolades

Herndon had done work for such corporations as Coca-Cola, NationsBank and the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, and won accolades from former President Bill Clinton.

He was found on August 7, 1996, in the bedroom of his upscale home with his skull crushed. At the mistrial last year, Jackie Herndon, the victim's mother, told the court that she discovered her son's battered body. She attended court every day and sat quietly within view of the woman prosecutors insist slaughtered her son.

Baugh has been unable to post bond, set at half a million dollars, and remained jailed until she faced a third trial.

Harrison Herndon, 12, wanted to attend the trial to learn more about why he no longer had a father but the family decided that he shouldn't hear the gruesome details, prosecutors said. The boy, who has lived with his mother since she divorced Herndon, was five when he last saw his father alive.

Prosecutors described the case as a tale of wealth, sex and greed that ended in a bloodbath.

Herndon was the owner and founder of a multimillion-dollar corporation and had been honored by two presidents as minority entrepreneur of the year, prosecutors said. His computer consulting company, Access Inc., developed the software for Fulton County's 911 system, said Clint Rucker, the lead prosecutor in the case.

There was no witness to the killing. The murder weapon was never found, and there is no blood evidence. Prosecutors pieced together "nuggets" that they insisted proved that Baugh is the killer.

Baugh had no alibi, her DNA was found under Herndon's fingernails, and she charged $3,000 worth of furniture on Herndon's credit card hours after the slaying, Rucker said.

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September 29, 2004
 

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