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Attorney: Missing carpet sample undercuts case

Oct. 30, 2013 @ 09:21 AM

HUNTINGTON -- A carpet sample discarded nearly six years ago could now serve as reason to dismiss the murder charge facing Teresa Baker, according to a defense motion filed earlier this month.

Investigators cut the sample from beneath the deceased head of Jeffrey Sadler, who died Feb. 4, 2008, amid a domestic dispute with Baker's daughter. It happened at 156 Cedar St., next door to Baker's residence and near Norway Avenue.

Police removed the carpet to search for a potential bullet hole, but Huntington Police Sgt. David Castle found nothing, deemed the sample as having no value as evidence and left it at the scene, according to an email cited in a motion by Baker's attorneys.

Baker's defense insists that decision blocked their ability to test the carpet for gunshot residue. They contend the absence of such residue would be their most important piece of evidence as it would disprove Castle's theory that Baker shot Sadler as he lay on his back, characterized by the motion as the prosecution's only argument for murder.

"The evidence is forever lost and cannot be replicated," defense attorney Chad Hatcher wrote in the motion. "This Court should not admit testimony based solely upon speculation when evidence existed that would have negated Castle's speculations."

The motion seeks either an outright dismissal of Baker's indictment or a ruling that prohibits any mention of Castle's theory about Sadler's position when he was shot.

Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson is scheduled to hear arguments on the defense motion at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Baker's trial is tentatively set for Dec. 10.

The defense has long contended Sadler, 25, was an abusive boyfriend who threatened to "gut" Baker's daughter with a knife. They insist it left Baker with little choice but to kill in her daughter's defense, especially after Baker called police and waited for an hour with no response.

This month's motion reiterates the Huntington Police Department's delayed response, arguing their client waited for help as four city police officers were minutes away at a Jolly Pirate Donuts location. It also critizes the investigation, alleging police never interviewed Baker's grandchild, who witnessed the crime.

The motion further argues police, aware of Sadler's relationship as grandson to former police officer and current Cabell County Magistrate Darrell Black, rushed to judgment in making an arrest. It references 911 records in stating a captain met with Black at a 5th Avenue restaurant within two hours of Sadler's death and before Baker's arraignment.

Last set for trial in December 2012, Baker's case has been snarled by various delays and arguments. They include a state Supreme Court ruling in June that blocked dismissal on speedy trial grounds. Other concerned the clarity of audio recordings, allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and the death of Baker's first attorney.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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