1996 killer of Roswell mil­lion­aire out of prison

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - METRO - By Ne­dra Rhone nrhone@ajc.com

Af­ter a high-pro­file killing, an over­turned life sen­tence and nearly a decade as fod­der for news out­lets na­tion­wide, Dionne Baugh is a free wo­man.

Baugh, 44, spent 10 years in prison for the vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter of Roswell mil­lion­aire Lance Hern­don. She was re­leased in July and is cur­rently serv­ing a 10-year pro­ba­tion, said Kris­ten Stan­cil, a spokes­woman for the Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions.

“I’m happy that she is out and hope­fully she is do­ing well,” said a rel­a­tive who asked not to be iden­ti­fied. The rel­a­tive is no longer in con­tact with Baugh but could not es­cape the sen­sa­tional un­fold­ing of the case from Hern­don’s death in 1996 right up to the re­lease of a true crime book in 2007 de­tail­ing Baugh’s trial from mur­der con­vic­tion to guilty plea. “I heard about the book, but I couldn’t read it,” the rel­a­tive said. “It was too painful.”

In Au­gust 1996, Hern­don, 41, was found dead in his Roswell home by his mother. He had been blud­geoned to death with an ob­ject that was never found. There were no fin­ger­prints at the scene and no wit­nesses, and it took more than a year be­fore po­lice ar­rested Baugh in Jan­uary 1998. Baugh, who had a hus­band and young daugh­ter in her na­tive Ja­maica, had be­come Hern­don’s lover af­ter she fi­na­gled an in­vite to his birth­day party.

Back then, Baugh was a petite, pol­ished, mildly ac­cented 29-year-old study­ing fi­nance at Ge­or­gia State Univer­sity while work­ing as an ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary at MARTA. She owned a home in Nor­cross and, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors, had a taste for the finer things. Hern­don seemed able, and at one point will­ing, to pro­vide them.

It was At­lanta’s golden era — as host to the Olympics and the ris­ing jewel of the New South - — and Hern­don, who found his for­tune in com­puter con­sult­ing, ex­em­pli­fied the spirit of the city. Baugh was re­port­edly one of sev­eral women with whom he shared the ben­e­fits of his suc­cess, in­clud­ing ac­cess to credit cards and lux­ury cars. But af­ter a few months of dat­ing, when she spied him with an­other wo­man, she flew into a jeal­ous rage. Hern­don filed crim­i­nal charges but would not live to make the sched­uled court ap­pear­ance.

In 2001, a jury con­victed Baugh of mur­der, which came with a life sen­tence. Two years later, the Ge­or­gia Supreme Court over­turned the con­vic­tion on ap­peal due to in­ad­mis­si­ble tes­ti­mony from a po­lice of­fi­cer. A sec­ond jury dead­locked af­ter a two-week trial. In Septem­ber 2004, Baugh was set for a third trial but pleaded guilty to the re­duced charge of vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter.

Baugh re­mained be­hind bars, most re­cently at medium-se­cu­rity Pu­laski State Prison in Hawkinsvil­le, but her story once again gath­ered steam. In 2005, the case was fea­tured on an episode of “Snapped,” Oxy­gen’s true crime se­ries about fe­male killers. And in 2007, “Red­bone: Money, Mal­ice, and Mur­der in At­lanta,” by Ron Stodghill (Amis­tad/harper­collins, $26) hit book­stores.

Baugh’s rel­a­tive hopes that with her re­lease, the fam­i­lies — both Baugh’s and Hern­don’s — can move past the dev­as­tat­ing crime.

“She is in my prayers,” the rel­a­tive said, “along with ev­ery­one else in­volved.”

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