TAMPA — The baby’s injuries were so severe, they were similar to those seen in victims of plane crashes or people who jumped from the Sunshine Skyway.
Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Laura Hair testified Friday in the trial of Richard McTear, accused of murdering Emanuel Wesley Murray Jr., his then-girlfriend’s baby who was not quite 4 months old.
The prosecution says McTear attacked the baby’s mother, Jasmine Bedwell, and then threw the baby in a car carrier across her apartment. Next, the prosecution says, McTear took the baby and threw him out of a car as he drove along Interstate 275.
The baby was found on the shoulder of the highway in the early morning hours of May 5, 2009, wearing baby clothes and a diaper, covered in scrapes and covered by ants.
Jurors on Friday saw pictures of the infant’s extensive injuries, including the scrapes all over his body, ant bites and massive skull fractures. Hair said the scrapes were consistent with “road rash,” a type of injury sustained by victims of car and motorcycle accidents when they are ejected from vehicles.
The skull injuries, she said, likely killed the infant instantly. They were so severe, she has seen them in people who fell, but only from buildings at least three stories high, she said.
“I have seen babies that have been hit against a wall and a dresser, but I haven’t seen injury that severe,” Hair said.
Defense lawyer Theda James pushed Hair in her cross-examination over whether the infant could have received the skull injuries when he fell on the sidewalk outside Bedwell’s apartment. Hair said that could have happened, if the baby fell with the right amount of force.
McTear was found later that morning hiding under a car in the Robles Park area. Tampa Police Officer Edwin Perez testified he was helping in the manhunt and was walking to his car when he spotted McTear. He pulled out his taser and ordered McTear to show his hands.
Perez said McTear showed his left hand, so Perez used his left hand to pull McTear out. He handcuffed McTear and drove him to a sheriff’s building. There, they were met by television reporters who began peppering McTear with questions.
“Did you throw the baby out the window?” “Why did you throw the baby out the window?”
“It’s a dirty game,” McTear said. “Dirty game.”
“It’s not a game!” one journalist responded. “It’s a life. People are upset with you.”
“Fifteen for life,” McTear said.
That last statement, lawyers agreed, was a reference to his neighborhood around 15th Street.
Various explanations have been given for the “dirty game” statement.
Perez said it referred to a gang. A friend of McTear’s said on Thursday that it was something they said growing up.
McTear’s cousin, Michelle Wiggins, testified the phrase was something she and he both said in a conversation about her love life and cheating.
Assistant State Attorney Michelle Doherty told Circuit Judge William Fuente the statement was a cavalier response to a serious accusation, showing McTear’s guilt.
Although he has told jurors about McTear’s statement, defense lawyer Michael Peacock strenuously objected to the recording being played in the trial on the grounds the reporters’ statements were hearsay. But the judge overruled the objection, and allowed jurors to see the video.
Also on Friday, the prosecution tried to link McTear to the car they say was used in the crime and is owned by his cousin, Wiggins. A police officer has testified he put his hand above the hood of the car around 5 a.m. that morning and it was hot, suggesting it had recently been driven, The baby was discovered around 4 a.m.
The prosecution has said the baby’s DNA was in a blood spot on the console of the car.
Wiggins, described by the prosecution as a hostile witness, said she didn’t want to testify. She said she had let someone use her car around 10 p.m. the night before, but no one after that. She said McTear sometimes stayed with her and she had let him use her car in the past.
Wiggins said she had to get a new set of car keys at one point after she misplaced the keys.
A fingerprint expert testified McTear’s prints were not found in the car or in Bedwell’s apartment.
The trial is scheduled to resume Monday.