CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — After the 1989 murder of a man in Mecklenburg County, an inmate sentenced to life will now be paroled in 2025, according to the North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission.
On Aug. 3, 1990, Leonard Baldwin was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder plus another 10 years for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, according to the North Carolina Department of Adult Correction (NCDAC).
According to court documents, Baldwin was accused of a murder-for-hire resulting in the death of Roosevelt Bates on Aug. 3, 1989.
The state claims that the victim’s then-girlfriend, Doretha Weathers, hired Baldwin through a friend to kill the victim, her boyfriend, Roosevelt Bates. On Aug. 3, 1989, the friend, Darwin Mobley, contacted Baldwin saying Mobley knew a woman who wanted Baldwin “to do something for her.”
Officials say Baldwin and Mobley then went to the apartment shared by Weathers and Bates to talk to the woman. Weathers asked Baldwin if he would kill her boyfriend for $2,000, and Baldwin said he would “get back up with her.”
That evening, authorities claim Mobley went to Baldwin’s home to wake him up in order to go get a gun. The two men went to the home of Jay Jones and obtained a .357 Magnum pistol before walking to Mobley’s apartment around 9:30 p.m. After watching a fight in the parking lot, Mobley put three bullets into the gun, in addition to one already loaded bullet, and handed it to Baldwin.
State documents say that at 9:55 p.m., Baldwin and Mobley went to Weathers’ apartment with the gun. Baldwin told Weathers that he had never shot anyone, and she reassured Baldwin saying “Don’t worry, this is my third person I’ve done like this…. third boyfriend.”
Authorities state Weathers hid Baldwin in a bedroom closet, saying she would tell Bates to grab a sewing machine out of the closet and for Baldwin to shoot Bates when he opened the closet door.
Officials say Baldwin stood waiting in the closet and pointed the gun at the door. Around 30 seconds later, Bates walked into the bedroom, turned on the lights and opened the closet. Bates and Baldwin saw each other, and Baldwin fired three shots, killing Bates.
According to investigators, Weathers rushed into the room, telling Baldwin to leave and that she would pay him the next day. Baldwin then hid the gun in the woods and walked to Mobley’s apartment.
The state claims Baldwin told Mobley that he shot Bates and was going to turn himself in, to which Mobley said that would be “dumb” and to go home. Jones then went to Baldwin’s home to get the murder weapon. The gun was retrieved from the woods and Jones cleaned the gun with alcohol.
The next day, authorities say Baldwin and Jones went to Mobley’s apartment. Mobley left and returned with around $1,500. He gave Baldwin $300 saying Weathers would pay him the remainder of the money later.
Thirty-three years later on Aug. 23 of this year, investigators say they questioned Baldwin, who claimed he was across town during the shooting and did not know anything, but when pressed that investigators knew he was involved, Baldwin said he would talk.
Officials say Baldwin gave a written statement, and Weathers identified Baldwin as the man who shot her boyfriend.
Authorities said Bates was shot twice in the chest and the third shot had missed causing the bullet to become stuck in the ceiling. After his death, $1,000 and a small-caliber pistol were found in one of Bates’ pockets.
In court, Baldwin’s defense claimed he was mentally incapable of the plan and its execution. A psychologist brought in as an expert claimed Baldwin was easily swayed by others and had an inability to see what the consequences of his actions may be.
The defense continued that Mobley asked Baldwin if he would “kill somebody for $40,000,” but that Baldwin never agreed to kill.
“[Jones] told me that if I didn’t kill the guy that Ms. Weathers would have somebody to kill me,” Baldwin testified. “This boy named Donald Young approached me and put a small revolver to my side and pulled the trigger twice… That made me think that that lady was serious about having me killed if I didn’t kill Mr. Bates.”
According to court documents, Mobley agreed that Young threatened Baldwin with a gun, but that the threat had nothing to do with the murder plan.
The defense claims that upon seeing Bates, Baldwin saw the gun sticking out of Bates’ pocket and felt he had to shoot or be shot. However, police say Bates’ gun was deep in his pocket underneath the $1,000 in cash.
After his 1990 conviction, Baldwin appealed the trial court’s decision to the N.C. Supreme Court on the basis that mistakes were made during the trial and the psychologist’s testimony was unnecessarily limited, among other points.
However, on Jan. 10, 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that Baldwin did receive a fair trial.
On Tuesday, officials announced that Baldwin would be released on parole on July 21, 2025. This is under the state’s provision that inmates sentenced to life in prison before Oct. 1, 1994, should be given the chance for parole.
According to the NCDAC, Weathers was convicted of first-degree murder of her then-boyfriend and, on Dec. 13, 1990, was sentenced to life in connection to Bate’s death. However, she was released on parole in 2005, and finished parole in 2010.
QCN could find no evidence to back her claims regarding previous murder-for-hire schemes on boyfriends.
NCDAC says Baldwin is currently incarcerated at the Lincoln Correctional Center.