TAMPA — Trembling, sobbing and fighting to keep herself under control, Jasmine Bedwell testified Wednesday against the man prosecutors say threw her infant son out a car window on Interstate 275 five years ago.
Labeled a liar by the defense, Bedwell denied covering for anyone else, standing by her charge that Richard McTear attacked her and took her baby after she returned home from visiting a male friend the morning of May 4, 2009.
McTear, she said, demanded to know who the friend was and beat her viciously, hitting her, choking her, biting her and using his hand to scrape out the inside of her mouth.
She said he poured a soda on the baby’s face, and when infant started crying, threw the baby in his car carrier across the room. Bedwell told her to shut the baby up, and she tried to soothe Emanuel. When she tried to flee with the baby, McTear grabbed the infant and threw him to the concrete. She testified she ran to a neighbor’s apartment and called 911.
A television journalist later found the baby dead on the side of the highway.
McTear is accused of murdering the infant, Emanuel Wesley Murray Jr., whose father was in prison when the baby was born and died. If convicted of first-degree murder, McTear faces a possible death sentence.
Bedwell had let McTear, her boyfriend, live in her apartment. He was at the hospital with her when the baby was born on Jan. 25, 2009. She had Rico, his nickname, tattooed on her neck.
Now the tattoo is obscured by a drawing of flowers.
Bedwell, who was a 17-year-old foster child when her baby was killed, is the chief witness for the prosecution and sobbed through much of her testimony. The defense says that if jurors don’t believe her, they can’t convict McTear.
This is McTear’s second trial in the baby’s death. A trial last year ended in a mistrial when Bedwell made statements that had been ruled inadmissible about McTear threatening to kill her and the baby and urinate on the baby’s face.
McTear also had a trial on a charge he assaulted Bedwell another time. Jurors in that case found him not guilty.
On Wednesday, before she spoke to jurors, Bedwell was put on the witness stand and cautioned by the judge and lawyers to watch what she said. She was warned not to mention previous violent encounters with McTear or talk about his criminal record. She was told to answer only the question asked and not to elaborate.
And although she broke down at one point and needed a break to compose herself, Bedwell managed to make it through her testimony this time without disrupting the trial.
When confronted by defense lawyer Michael Peacock, Bedwell calmly and emphatically denied she was lying about McTear. She denied she was covering for someone else. She denied she had hurt her baby. And she denied telling anyone her uncle had taken her baby.
The defense is expected to present testimony from other witnesses, including Bedwell’s former teacher and a social worker, that Bedwell had blamed others for taking the infant.
At the time of the killing, Bedwell was 17 and in an independent living program that allowed her to have her own apartment while under the supervision of the foster care system. She testified she met McTear around October of 2008 when she was pregnant, and let him move in a month or two later. She asked him to move out around March or April after social workers told her he couldn’t live with her, she said.
The day the baby was killed, Bedwell said, McTear had called and threatened her. So she went to the apartment of a male friend, Liderrius Moore, to watch movies. She said she fell asleep and woke up late remembering she had to go to school, one of the requirements of the independent living program.
Moore and his mother took her back to her apartment. Moore carried the baby inside, kissed her and left.
Bedwell said she locked the door behind Moore and started walking down a short hallway to her bedroom. McTear, she said, emerged demanded to know, “who the f--- that was.”
“He was punching me, choking me, scraping the inside of my mouth,” she said. “He put his hands inside my mouth, under my tongue and he was scraping it, scraping it.”
Then he had her on the couch, beating her, choking her, scratching her neck and biting her, she said.
“He bit me on my face, the back of my neck, the back of my arm...I think on my back somewhere,” she said.
After McTear poured a soda on the baby and told her to shut him up, she said, she tried to comply. “I was rocking him, patting his butt. Shh shh shh,” she said.
Jurors heard the emotional 911 call Bedwell made from a neighbor’s house when she told deputies her baby had been thrown to the concrete and taken from her. Hysterical, Bedwell initially gave the operator the wrong apartment letter.
She said after deputies arrived, they searched her apartment for the baby. Then they took her to the scene by the side of the highway, where she saw emergency response vehicles, but not her son.
“I asked if I could see my baby,” she said. The deputy “told me no and drove away.”
They took her home and told her that her son as dead.
Peacock drilled Bedwell about the details of her testimony. First, she said McTear threw the baby once. But after looking at a prior statement she gave to law enforcement, she says he threw the baby twice.
At the end of his cross-examination, Peacock suggested the baby had been accidentally hurt during a tussle between Bedwell and McTear.
“I don’t remember everything, how it went,” she sobbed. “I ran!”
“You were running and he was pulling the baby,” Peacock said. “And the baby ended up falling to the ground. Is that what happened?”
Bedwell was unable to speak.
“Is that what happened?” Peacock demanded.
“Yes,” Bedwell said.
“No further questions,” Peacock said.
The trial resumes this morning.