D.A. --Couple killed for money, woman pulled trigger
By Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter
SEQUATCHIE COUNTYm TN (WRCB) -- Thomas Bryan Bettis, 35, would appear almost dazed as he awaited his first court hearing for felony murder.
His former girlfriend, Susan Lynette Baker, 35, couldn't hold back tears.
"Our proof will be that she's the one who pulled the trigger, says Steve Strain, Assistant District Attorney General for Sequatchie County.
"We don't believe self-defense will be an issue in this case," says Strain.
A passerby found his body, in the Sequatchie River, under Pickett Bridge last Thursday morning.
"We believe he was killed the day before; that Wednesday morning," Strain says.
Most likely, with his own gun. Most likely, while inside his 1996 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, found burned in the woods near his home.
"They were seen inside the automobile," Strain says, "Miss Baker had known him and socialized with him. They had some kind of relationship, I don't know whether I can characterize it as dating, they had spent time together"
Strain stops short of saying that Baker and Bettis lured Carden, but he believe Carden went willingly.
The strongest evidence may come from security cameras, which, prosecutors say, recorded Bettis and Baker inside the Wal Mart in Dunlap, buying items shortly after Carden's murder.
"We believe they used Mr. Carden's money for these purchases, and to pay for a hotel," Strain says.
The owner-manager of the nearby Mountain Inn & Suites tells Eyewitness News that Baker and Bettis spent last Wednesday-Friday in room 212, registered under their own names.
"They paid in cash, $69.95 per night," Mike Patel says off-camera. "They were no trouble."
Prosecutors say they have the motel receipts and security camera video off Baker & Bettis on the motel premises.
In Sequatchie Circuit Court Thursday morning, both claimed indigence.
"You're not gonna be able to afford it? Okay," Judge Thomas Austin says, before asking the couple to sign affidavits to make them eligible for a public defender, or a court-appointed attorney.
Save her court-appointed counsel, Baker was by herself in court.
Bettis' father, mother, and sister showed up; none would comment.
Judge Austin ordered the couple held without bond. They will be able to seek bail, and enter pleas, when they return to court February 23.