TAMPA — Not even 4 months old, Emanuel Wesley Murray Jr. was found dead on the side of Interstate 275 five years ago, covered head to toe in “road rash,” a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday morning.
The infant died of “multiple and severe” head injuries, Assistant State Attorney Ronald Gale said in his opening statement in the trial of Richard McTear Jr. McTear is charged with killing the baby, the son of his girlfriend, Jasmine Bedwell, in a jealous rage.
Although authorities say McTear threw the infant out his car window after beating him and snatching him from Bedwell, defense lawyer Michael Peacock said there’s no evidence anyone threw the baby out of a car window. Peacock told jurors the entire prosecution case rests on the credibility of Bedwell, who he said has a history of untruthfulness.
Tuesday marked the second attempt at a trial for McTear. The first derailed during Bedwell’s testimony, when she talked about a statement McTear had made but that the judge had previously ruled was inadmissible. Circuit Judge William Fuente declared a mistrial then, and jury selection began anew last week. On Tuesday, the trial began.
If McTear is convicted of first-degree murder, the prosecution plans to seek a death sentence.
Bedwell has yet to take the stand this time around.
The baby’s body was discovered in the early morning hours of May 5, 2009, on the side of the highway. A photojournalist for Channel 13 saw what he first thought was a doll on his way in to work. The photographer doubled back and realized the doll was actually the infant.
Gale said the “road rash,” deep scrapes often seen on people involved in motorcycle accidents, was inflicted at or just before the baby’s time of death.
Earlier that night, Bedwell, a foster child living independently with her baby, went to the apartment of a male friend, Liderrius Moore, to watch movies, according to the prosecution, as well as testimony Tuesday from Moore and his mother.
Later, Moore and his mother took Bedwell home, and Moore carried the baby in his car seat inside the apartment and left.
Gale said after Moore left, an enraged McTear emerged from the bedroom and attacked Bedwell, hitting and biting her.
McTear took Bedwell’s cell phone, got up and got himself a drink, Gale said. He took a can of soda from the refrigerator and poured it on the baby’s face, Gale said. The baby began to cry.
McTear, the prosecutor said, flung the car seat across the room and told Bedwell to make the baby be quiet. As she was trying to calm the baby down, McTear walked toward the bedroom, and she saw a chance to get away.
She grabbed the baby and fumbled with the door lock. McTear lunged, Gale said. McTear grabbed the baby, and Bedwell fled to a neighbor’s apartment where she called 911, Gale said. Deputies found her outside frantic and crying. She told them McTear had beaten her and taken her baby.
Later that morning, the baby’s body was discovered on the highway.
After a manhunt, McTear was found hiding from police, Gale said.
Gale told jurors they will hear evidence linking McTear to the crime, including the baby’s DNA in blood on his shorts and on the console of his cousin’s car. Bedwell’s DNA was also in blood on McTear’s shorts, the prosecutor said. An expert will testify that bite marks on Bedwell are consistent with McTear’s teeth.
But defense lawyer Michael Peacock said the expert testimony will be disputed. The case, he said, will hang entirely on Bedwell’s testimony.
“If you cannot believe Jasmine Bedwell, you will find there is no evidence against Mr. McTear,” Peacock told jurors.
The defense lawyer noted that McTear, after his arrest, told reporters, “It’s a dirty game.” In the past, when McTear said that, he was referring to a situation in which the wrong person was being blamed for something, Peacock said.
“There’s no doubt that Emanuel Murray Jr. died from great trauma,” Peacock said, “but how and why and who are not so clear… That little person, we all can agree, was an innocent victim of whatever occurred and whoever did it…. We do not know who killed Emanuel, but it was not Richard Anthony McTear Jr.”