The mood was somber at the Sampson County Sheriff’s Department Monday as everyone tried to come to grips with a devastating loss within their ranks.
Less than 24 hours earlier, on Sunday night, Kim Baggett was killed in a two-vehicle accident on Mingo Church Road, sending shock waves through a community which loved her, a family that cherished her and co-workers who called her the mortar that held the department together.
Emotions ran high Sunday night as word began spread on social media outlets about her death, with prayers being called for both for Baggett’s immediate family and for all those she worked side-by-side with for the past 30 years.
Baggett was Sheriff Jimmy Thornton’s secretary and someone, he said, who was a loyal and dedicated to the job she did so well.
“This tragic news has flat-lined our office beyond belief,” a devastated Thornton said. “The Sampson County Sheriff’s Office and the citizens of Sampson County have lost a wealth of knowledge and experience. Kimberly Baggett was, indeed, the mortar that held the bricks together in this agency, and moving forward without her will be a difficult task. We ask that you keep her family and our agency in your thoughts and prayers through these difficult times.”
Thornton and members of his staff were notified by the N.C. Highway Patrol of the fatality just before 6 p.m. Sunday night. “It was with great sadness and a heavy heart that we learned that the collision involved one of our own,” he said.
According to N.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. Bryan Smith, the accident happened around 5 p.m. on Mingo Church Road (State Road 1002) at Strickland Road (SR 1608). Smith said Kenneth Stephens, 47, of 5780 Plainview Highway, Dunn, was driving his 1998 Chevrolet truck north on 1002 and that Baggett, 53, of 4131 Fayetteville Highway, Godwin was driving her 1998 Buick west on Strickland Road.
“Ms. Baggett attempted to make a left turn onto SR 1002 and failed to yield to Mr. Stephens,” Smith said, referring to a report filed by Trooper J.D. Duff who responded to the fatal crash.
Baggett was pronounced dead at the scene.
Stephens and a passenger in his vehicle, Brandy Ardillo, 36, of 5780 Plain View Hwy., Dunn, were transported to Besty Johnson Hospital in Dunn for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.
Trooper Duff charged Stephens with driving while impaired and driving while license revoked.
Smith said Baggett’s family, Thornton and members of his office were notified of her death around 5:55 p.m.
Baggett began her duties as a sworn law enforcement officer on July 1, 1983. According to Thornton, she has worn many hats throughout her career, serving as the sheriff’s secretary under former Sheriff Cranford Fann, as deputy clerk for the Narcotics Division, civil clerk for the Civil Division and currently as Thornton’s secretary.
“She was a tremendous individual,” Thornton said. “She will be greatly missed.