TAMPA — At first, the news photographer thought the dark mass he saw on the side of Interstate 275 on his way into work was garbage.
Then he saw the form of a body and thought it might be a doll.
“What if it wasn’t a doll?” wondered Jason Bird, who worked for Fox 13 in Tampa.
He called his assignment desk and pulled off the highway.
Bird, a witness Thursday in the murder trial of Richard Anthony McTear Jr., testified he made his way back to the spot and pulled off the highway. He put on his hazard flashers. “I was pretty much in shock,” he said.
“I could tell right away it was a human baby and dead,” Bird testified. “He was laying on his right side and facing towards me almost in fetal position.”
The baby was Emanuel Wesley Murray Jr., not quite 4 months old. The prosecution says McTear attacked the infant’s mother, Jasmine Bedwell, in a jealous rage and beat her and threw the baby against a wall before taking the infant and throwing him from a moving car on the highway.
McTear is standing trial on charges including first-degree murder, kidnapping and battery. If convicted of first-degree murder, he could face the death sentence.
McTear denies the charges, and his lawyers are attacking the credibility of Bedwell, who was a 17-year-old foster child the day of the killing in May 2009. Bedwell had her own apartment as part of an independent living program. The baby’s father was in prison.
Hillsborough Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Dennie was the first law enforcement officer to arrive. The baby, he testified was “warm to the touch” but had no pulse. Dennie said he saw “what appeared to be road rash or abrasions” on the infant. “There were ants crawling on him as well. We had to dust the ants off.”
Dennie and his supervisor began CPR.
Lt. John Muralt of Tampa Fire Rescue arrived at 4:26 a.m. The baby, Muralt testified, had “significant trauma” to his head, which was misshapen, and to his neck, which wasn’t straight. Five minutes later, Muralt pronounced the infant dead.
Bedwell says that during the attack, McTear took her cell phone. Several witnesses testified they called Bedwell’s cell phone that morning, and a male voice answered.
Among them was Re’Kale Hill, the mother of McTear’s son, Richard Anthony McTear III. She testified Thursday that when she called Bedwell’s phone, McTear answered.
Hill, who said she has taken her son to visit his father in prison since his arrest, acknowledged she told law enforcement in 2009 that McTear threatened her, saying something like, “Y’all are next.” But she wavered on that testimony Thursday, agreeing she has also said McTear didn’t threaten her.
Also testifying Thursday was Ronald Cashwell, a crime scene detective who examined a car the prosecution says McTear drove that night. The prosecution says the 2000 Chevrolet Malibu belonged to McTear’s cousin. Cashwell said he found what appeared to be blood on the car console. The prosecution says the blood had the baby’s DNA.
Another deputy, Ralph Smith, said he responded to an apartment complex where the car was found that morning, and he held his hand over the top of the hood. It was, he said “really hot, which led me to believe it had recently been driven.”