Charges dropped against Baggett in John Deere murder

Published 5:00 am Friday, June 8, 2007

Murder charges against Kenneth Baggett Jr. in the slaying ofAirport Pik and Pak owner John Deere in January 2004 were droppedby prosecutors Wednesday after a motion was filed by the defense tobar the testimony of six witnesses.

Baggett, of 2471 Lake Lincoln Drive, was arrested in June 2004,charged with the murder, and held in jail until December 2006, whenhe was released under a $75,000 bond that was reduced following acase review.

Fourteenth Circuit Court Judge Mike Taylor approved the orderWednesday after discussions with District Attorney Dewitt “Dee”Bates and Leslie Roussell, who represents Baggett.

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“There were some things that probably shouldn’t have happened(during the investigation),” Bates admitted. “I’ll need to obtainmore information. The case is not over with.”

Telephone calls to Roussell Wednesday and Thursday morning werenot returned.

In his motion, Roussell alleged former Lincoln County SheriffWiley Calcote and deputies no longer employed with the departmentattempted to use other Lincoln County Jail inmates to obtaininformation from Baggett.

While jail inmates can be used as “snitches” to receive valuableinformation on a case, their use is limited, Bates said.

In essence, it is a matter of who initiates contact, thedistrict attorney said. An inmate can approach law enforcementofficers with information on another inmate in the hopes of tradingthat information for a lighter sentence in their own case.

However, in his motion to bar the inmates’ testimony Roussellalleges deputies contacted six inmates in the jail at differenttimes, secured their cooperation in attempts to get informationfrom Baggett on his case and positioned them in the same cell toensure they had access to the murder suspect.

Roussell’s motion asked that the inmates’ testimonies be deemedinadmissible because of the way the information was obtained.

Bates conceded to the request after examining theinvestigation.

“The District Attorney’s Office reviewed said allegations anddetermined that although most seem unfounded, a number of theclaims regarding the actions of former Sheriff Calcote may havemerit,” he wrote in his motion of nolle prosequi, which drops thecharges against Baggett.

Without the testimonies of the inmates, Bates said, “The Stateis unable to meet its burden of proof to prove guilt.”

“This really does have a significant impact on the case,” hesaid. “You want to prosecute individuals with sufficient evidenceand not tainted evidence because if they’re acquitted you don’t geta second chance. You lost that chance because of doublejeopardy.”

Double jeopardy applies once a suspect has been tried for acrime. They cannot be retried for the same crime. By not taking thecase to court at this time, Bates said, he is able to chargeBaggett again in the future after rebuilding his case shouldevidence continue to point to the Lincoln County native.

Bates said he talked extensively about the case with thevictim’s family “and they understand. They want the personresponsible to pay for his crime. I will work to ensure that theperson who did this is held accountable.”

Authorities believe Deere, 55, was shot between 4:30 and 4:45a.m. shortly after he arrived to start the day at his conveniencestore. He was found in the store parking lot around 5 a.m. afterofficers responded to an anonymous 911 call.