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  1. #1
    Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010

    Jeremy Russom Sentenced in 2010 NC Double Homicide

    The state will seek the death penalty if Jeremy Russom is convicted of killing two people in Zionville last fall, assistant district attorney Charlie Byrd said Monday.
    Russom, 27, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the Nov. 22, 2010, deaths of Heather Jolene Baumgardner and Barry Wayne Cook at Baumgardner's home on Mabel School Road.
    Baumgardner was the mother of Russom's two children, and Cook was her friend.
    Russom was arrested about four hours after the shoot ing and after running from officers near Country Retreat Family Billiards in the Foscoe community. He was issued a
    $10 million secured bond.
    Russom, who has been in jail since his arrest, appeared in court Monday afternoon for the hearing. He was calm and quiet throughout the 10-minute process, whispering occasionally with his court-appointed attorney, Garland Baker.
    Several sheriff's deputies provided additional security in the courtroom during the proceeding, and they asked that no one leave their seats during that time. Dozens of family members and friends of Baumgardner, Cook and Russom watched the process from the benches.
    To seek the death penalty, the prosecution must show that one or more of 11 aggravating circumstances outlined in state law were present in the case.
    Byrd said the state believed that the murder was part of a course of conduct by the defendant that included other acts of violence, one of the 11 qualifying circumstances, adding that others might also apply.
    If Russom were convicted, a jury would decide in a separate proceeding whether he would face death or life imprisonment.
    Judge Phil Ginn also accepted Byrd's request to revoke Russom's bond, although he did not preclude the possibility of a bond hearing later.
    Baker also indicated in court that Ashe County attorney Don Willey would likely serve as a co-counsel in the case.
    Russom's case will be heard next at an administrative court session April 18, where a judge will hear any pre-trial motions, Baker said outside the courtroom.
    A trial will probably not occur until fall or winter, he added.
    The last three months have taken an emotional toll on those who knew the victims and accused.
    "It's just a bad situation for all the families," said Jeremy's father, Tim Russom, who drove from Mountain City, Tenn., to attend the hearing Monday.
    "To be perfectly honest, I don't know any more today than I did the day it happened," he said.
    Tim Russom said he has visited Jeremy in jail several times and speaks frequently to Baumgardner's mother to check on their young grandchildren.
    He said he also called Cook's sister a few days after his death. Russom didn't reach her, but he spoke with her husband, he said.
    "I was tore all to pieces," Tim Russom said. "I told him, I'd give my world to change it."

  2. #2
    Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Five charges against Russom dismissed

    By Kellen Moore

    Five misdemeanor charges against the man charged with killing two people in Zionville in November 2010 have been dismissed.
    Jeremy Daniel Russom, 27, was arrested Nov. 16, 2010, and charged with injury to real property, misdemeanor larceny, interfering with emergency communication, domestic criminal trespassing and assault on a female.
    The charges were filed by Heather Baumgardner, the mother of his two children, who claimed that Russom damaged two windowpanes and storm door glasses and stole her cellphone, portable phone and laptop, according to court documents. The warrant also states that Russom grabbed Baumgardner's cellphone and would not let her call 911.
    Baumgardner and Barry Cook were shot and killed on Nov. 22, 2010, at Baumgardner's home on Mabel School Road. Russom has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in their deaths and could face the death penalty if convicted.
    Assistant district attorney Charlie Byrd entered a dismissal of the five misdemeanors Tuesday, citing that the evidence of those charges would be used as evidence against Russom in the murder case.
    Byrd declined to comment further on the dismissal Thursday because of the pending case but said the decision was simply "trial strategy."
    Russom's attorney, Garland Baker of West Jefferson, said he went to court that morning ready for trial but was not entirely surprised when the charges were dropped. Because Baumgardner was not available, the prosecution would likely have had a difficult time trying those cases, he said.
    "In the scheme of things, considering that he's charged with two counts of capital murder, a series of misdemeanor charges are relatively insignificant," Baker said.
    Russom is scheduled to appear June 1 in district court on two traffic charges. The murder case is scheduled for administrative court June 13.
    The murder charges will not likely go to trial until summer 2012, Baker said.

  3. #3
    Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Almost one year later, families still grieve

    WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. -- Nov. 22, 2010, was a day that changed three families' lives forever.

    On that warm afternoon in Zionville, 24-year-old Heather Baumgardner and her boyfriend, 39-year-old Barry Cook, were shot to death at her home on Mabel School Road. The father of Baumgardner's two children, Jeremy Russom, was arrested later that day and charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

    Now, Russom is awaiting trial, and those close to the victims and the accused have survived their first year in an altered world.

    “It doesn't seem like it's been a year,” said Jolene Baumgardner, Heather's mother, in an interview this week. “I think of her everyday, and sometimes just for a split second I think it can't be true — still, I think that way. But we just have to go on and do the best we can.”

    Trial preparation

    Since that fateful day, the prosecution and defense have been working behind the scenes to prepare for trial.

    Russom's attorney, Garland Baker, made a request for discovery in December 2010 and has received some of those trial materials, he said.

    “I believe I have all of the discovery that the DA's office has at this point,” Baker said. “There are probably some interviews and some investigative reports that we don't have yet just because they haven't been completed or they haven't been turned in to the DA's office yet.”

    In May, Baker and attorney Don Willey requested copies of Department of Social Services records related to the couple and their children. After a judge's review, the request was granted.

    “The DSS had been involved in that family situation for some time, so there was a fairly significant DSS file,” Baker said. “We're still reviewing it. Of course, at this point, any information that we can find is helpful.”

    Russom, now 28, has remained in custody since his arrest but recently was moved from Watauga County.

    On Aug. 24, Judge Kyle Austin granted a motion that Russom be taken to Central Prison in Raleigh for safekeeping. In the motion, Baker stated that Russom had been uncooperative with jailers and refused to eat or drink for several days, adding that the limited jail staff was insufficient to adequately supervise him.

    While the case has appeared relatively quiet to outsiders, Baker said they are continuing to work and met with Russom just this week. His next administrative court date is scheduled for Dec. 12.

    With two murder trials ahead of Russom's on the docket — John Richard Gray and the retrial of Neil Sargeant — it will likely be fall 2012 before Russom is tried.

    “For a capital trial, it'll take a week or two weeks to pick a jury and then two to four weeks to put on the evidence,” assistant district attorney Charlie Byrd said.

    If convicted, a jury would decide in a separate proceeding whether Russom would face the death penalty or life in prison.

    Families conquer emotions

    As the case works its way through the court system, the families and friends of those involved also have worked their way through the flood of emotions that sprung from the tragedy.

    Former Board of Education chairman Lowell Younce, who lives across the street from the crime scene, knew both the Baumgardner and Cook families.

    “For three or four months you didn't look out the window, you didn't drive up the driveway without thinking about it,” Younce said.

    At Greene Construction, where Cook worked as a foreman, his photo still appears on the staff page of the company website. The company posted a plaque in the office to memorialize Cook and other former employees who have died.

    “Hardly a day's gone by that I don't think of something that Barry knew that I don't know,” owner Skip Greene said. “I lost more than an employee; I lost a close friend.”

    Greene said the team tried to have sessions to talk through the matter shortly after Cook died, “but men just don't talk,” he said.

    In addition to his work family, Cook left behind his father, a teenage son, the mother of his children and four siblings.

    Baumgardner's death also dramatically changed life for her friends and family, especially her children, 5-year-old Nora and 7-year-old Daniel.

    “It's changed totally,” said Jolene Baumgardner. “I have custody of my two grandchildren, and their mother is gone, and their father is gone, and it's just a totally different world.”

    Jolene Baumgardner said talking about what happened helped both children to grieve afterward. Daniel, who was inside the house with the incident occurred, had nightmares for a few weeks afterward, she said.

    Both children went through therapy for about five months, and Jolene Baumgardner said she is amazed at how well they have adjusted.

    “Now they sometimes bring up their parents, but it's not anything sad about it,” she said. “They just say, well, me and mom done this, or me and my dad done this. They've accepted that she's in heaven.”

    The children have not seen their father since the incident, but they have spent time with Russom's extended family, she said.

    Jolene Baumgardner said she's dreading going through the teenage years again, but feels blessed to have her grandchildren in her life.

    “The children keep me going, they really do, because they're a part of her,” she said.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    JLR's Avatar
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    Mar 2011
    A Vilas man accused of killing two people in the presence of his 6-year-old son will spend life in prison without parole after agreeing to a plea bargain Monday in Watauga County court.

    Jeremy Daniel Russom, 29, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the Nov. 22, 2010 shootings of Heather Baumgardner and Barry Cook at 1387 Mabel School Road in Zionville.

    Baumgardner, 24, was the mother of Russom’s two children. Cook, 39, was a construction foreman she had recently started dating. Each suffered two gunshot wounds, believed to have come from a .38-caliber handgun police located in a yard near the crime scene, according to statements made in court Monday.

    Russom was arrested about four hours after the shooting after fleeing from officers near Country Retreat Family Billiards in Foscoe.

    In court Monday, Judge Gary Gavenus proceeded quickly to accept a plea arrangement between District Attorney Jerry Wilson and Russom's appointed attorneys, Garland Baker and Don Willey.

    Prosecutors indicated in February 2011 that they intended to seek the death penalty if Russom were convicted. The plea bargain removed that from consideration and ensured that the state would not pursue any other charges from the incident.

    Wilson said Tuesday that his office originally expected the case to proceed to trial before he received a call from Russom’s attorneys last week.

    “The defendant had a change of heart,” Wilson said. “What brought that on, I’m not sure.”

    Wilson said both victims' families were satisfied with the plea. Accepting a plea agreement prevented the young boy from being asked to testify, and it also ensured a greater sense of closure by precluding appeals, he said.

    “A lot of people I hear say, well, they need to be sentenced to death,” Wilson said. “But our death penalty in North Carolina has become nothing more than something in a book. In my opinion, we have seen the last execution in North Carolina that we’re ever going to see.”

    As a result, Russom will spend the rest of his natural life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    He also must pay $18,823 in restitution and a $5,000 fine, along with reimbursements to the state for his attorneys' fees. Gavenus also recommended substance abuse treatment and psychiatric counseling for Russom while in prison.

    Russom is not recommended for work release, Gavenus added, and must not have any contact with the immediate family of either victim.

    More than two dozen family members and friends of the victims, as well as family of Russom, sat in the courtroom during the half-hour hearing Monday.

    Jolene Baumgardner, Heather Baumgardner's mother, presented a letter to the court explaining how her life had been affected by the tragedy and wondering whether Russom felt regret about his actions.

    “You have two beautiful children and you murdered their mother in cold blood,” the letter read. “Your son saw you do this. I’ve never known of anyone being so cruel. … My daughter loved you so much and you all could have had such a wonderful life.”

    In an interview the morning after the shooting, the boy identified his father as the shooter and told authorities that Russom had broken into the house and was waiting for them that day, Capt. Dee Dee Rominger of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office said Monday in court.

    Baumgardner pledged in her letter to care for the two young children and raise them in a Christian home.

    “I know God is with me and he’ll help me to be strong,” she wrote. “I pray for God’s mercy on your soul.”

    Skip Greene, Cook’s former employer, said several employees of Greene Construction took a break from work to attend the hearing and remember their friend.

    Greene remembered Cook as a “top-notch employee” who got along with everyone and could practically read his boss’ mind.

    “I think everybody is relieved that we do not have to go through a court trial,” Greene said. “That would just rub the sores.”

    Russom declined to comment Monday when given the opportunity in court. He was admitted Monday afternoon into Central Prison in Raleigh.

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