The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

1996 killer of Roswell millionair­e out of prison

- 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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