Baughn Pleads Guilty in Wife's Murder
BY JOHN CHAPPELL — Staff Writer
A Moore County man will spend a dozen years or more in prison in connection with his wife’s death. Randy Baughn entered a plea of guilty to second degree murder for shooting his wife to death in their bedroom three years ago. He contended then – and has ever since – that her death was accidental.
According to court testimony earlier in the week, Baughn gave several varying accounts of the night in 2009 when Abigail Baughn was fatally shot behind her right ear. In one, he said he’d been trying to kill himself; and she tried to stop him. In the struggle over the pistol, somehow a deadly shot was fired. In another version, he said he’d asked her to bring him his weapon so he could shoot an otter – then heard a shot from the bedroom where she’d gone to get the gun.
While Baughn later told a number of people he’d killed his wife – a well-known and greatly loved school teacher and assistant principal – he always insisted what happened was accidental. The state first agreed to accept a plea of guilty to the lesser included charge of second degree murder with a sentence of 7 to 10 years. That plea was not accepted by Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James M. Webb when it was presented last Wednesday.
After that original plea bargain collapsed in court that day, prosecution and defense worked out a new plea agreement between them and presented it to the court on Friday. Webb accepted this one.
At 10 a.m. in Moore County Superior Court on Nov. 9, Baughn entered an “in my best interest” Alford plea of guilty to one count of second degree murder. His plea was not a confession of actual guilt, but what is called “an Alford plea” in which a defendant decides pleading guilty (usually to a lesser charge) is in his best interest – but does not admit actual guilt.
The defense had always contended Baughn’s wife was killed by accident. She died May 24, 2009 from a single shot fired in her bedroom from a .357 revolver. A Grand Jury indicted her husband for first degree murder. His trial had been set to begin Nov. 26.
The original plea agreement had been worked in conferences and plea bargaining between Assistant District Attorney Warren McSweeney and Defense attorney James R. Van Camp of Pinehurst. They presented it to Webb in court on Wednesday.
The judge – who has to accept any plea to a lesser charge acceptable to the prosecution – must still approve any deal involving a sentence agreement. After hearing testimony from two sheriff’s investigators Webb told Van Camp he would not accept the bargained deal. It called for a sentence in the mitigated range, (7 to 10 years) — Webb instead offered one in the presumptive range (13 to 16 years). Van Camp respectfully declined that offer at the time.
By Friday a new deal was in the works. In court that morning Webb approved a new sentencing agreement that will send Baughn to prison for 12 to 15 years in return for his Alford plea of guilty to second degree murder.
“Your Honor, thank you for your consideration,” Van Camp told the court.
Later, in a brief telephone interview, the lawyer said the defense had always contended Baughn’s wife died as the result of a tragic accident.
“This was a tragic event, tragic,” Van Camp said. “He felt fully responsible.”
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