Clark photo

Anthony James Clark

A Dalton man charged with murder for a death that resulted from what the Murray County sheriff called a “botched drug deal” was found guilty today by a Murray County jury on all counts and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the district attorney said.

Anthony James Clark and Jami Brooke Johnson of Rossville were charged with murder and other charges in connection with the death of Stasha Fay Baggett, 30, in February 2019 at 252 Red Cut Road in northern Murray County. Johnson will be tried later and faces one count of murder, robbery and possession of meth. District Attorney Bert Poston said Johnson testified as a witness for the prosecution in Clark's trial. Assistant District Attorney Keely Parker was the prosecutor.

Sheriff Gary Langford said at the time of the original investigation that Baggett's death occurred during a “botched drug deal.” Langford said Baggett “got run over or maybe struck a tree, but she was hanging onto the car as they were attempting to drive off.”

Chief Deputy Jimmy Davenport said it appeared Baggett was trying to stop Clark and Johnson from leaving and said the incident started over the sale of meth with an estimated street value of between $65 and $80. Baggett was said to be the seller. A 911 caller named Clark the driver.

Clark was found guilty of two counts of murder, armed robbery, robbery and possession of meth. There were two counts of murder because one was predicated on armed robbery and the other on robbery, Poston said. The counts of murder predicated on robbery, armed robbery and robbery were merged with the murder predicated on armed robbery for the sentencing by Superior Court Judge Jim Wilbanks, Poston said. Clark was also sentenced to 15 years in prison for possession of meth to serve consecutive to the life without parole sentence.

"The murder counts were felony murder, not malice murder," Poston said. "Armed robbery was charged based on the use of pepper spray. Robbery was charged as an alternative in the event that the jury did not find pepper spray to be an offensive weapon. But not mutually exclusive."

Clark turned down a plea deal in September in which he could have avoided the sentence of life in prison without parole. Poston said then in Superior Court he offered Clark an opportunity to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and robbery with two sentencing options.

“We had offered for the defendant to enter a guilty plea of voluntary manslaughter as a lesser plea to the offense of felony murder, and robbery as a lesser plea to the offense of armed robbery,” Poston told Judge Cindy Morris. “The recommendation would have been either 20 years to serve followed by 20 years of probation or 18 years to serve without the possibility of parole followed by 22 years of probation. We discussed both of those options and the defendant has rejected either of those offers. Based on that rejection, we are withdrawing those offers and taking those off the table at this time.”

Poston said then he was also in talks with Johnson's attorney about a possible plea deal.

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