Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Baby found on I-275 suffered extreme trauma, medical examiner says

TAMPA — In her 20 years as a medical examiner, Dr. Laura Hair has seen fractures at the base of victims' skulls in only the most severe circumstances. She's found them in people who died in airplane crashes, in falls from multistory buildings, and in horrific car accidents. She's seen them in people who jumped to their death from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

She's never seen them in a baby dropped from a standing position.

Questioned on Friday in the murder trial of Richard McTear Jr., who is accused of throwing his ex-girlfriend's baby out the window of a moving car onto the side of an interstate, Hair said she couldn't determine exactly how the infant died. Death being an inexact science, she allowed it was possible, as the defense suggested, that the baby had been dropped onto a concrete sidewalk. But she said 3-month-old Emanuel Murray's body had suffered extreme trauma. She ruled his death a homicide.

"I have seen babies that have been hit against a wall and a dresser and everything, but I haven't seen injury that severe," said Hair, Hillsborough's deputy chief medical examiner.

Discovered by a TV news photographer who was driving to work in the early hours of May 5, 2009, Emanuel was found on the right shoulder of Interstate 275 South. He had multiple skull fractures, including at the base of his skull, where even in very young children the bone is particularly difficult to break. His brain was lacerated, Hair said, and he had an extensive hemorrhage that sent blood to the soft tissue around his eyes, turning them a bluish-purple color.

A prosecutor then asked how much force is needed to cause those injuries.

"It takes a lot," Hair replied.

She's seen such injuries in people who have fallen from three stories or more, she said, nothing less.

Emanuel's more superficial injuries included scrapes all over his body, from the top of his toes and his knees to his forehead, which was covered by a large blue bruise.

"Road rash," Hair said, the kind people get when they're ejected from a vehicle.

In all likelihood, she said, the skull fractures and skin abrasions occurred at the same time. The child probably died instantaneously, she said.

Throughout the trial, defense attorneys have argued there is no evidence that anyone, much less McTear, threw a baby onto the interstate. No one witnessed the alleged act, they said, and the medical examiner can't prove it definitively. Rather, McTear's defense has proposed that Emanuel was accidentally dropped onto the sidewalk outside of his mother's apartment as she ran out the door. They've offered no explanation for how the baby wound up face-down on I-275.

"There are two possible scenarios here," said Assistant Public Defender Theda James. "Road rash is just one possible scenario."

"Yes," Hair said, but, "I'm not sure what another cause would be."

Prosecutors said they plan to introduce DNA evidence early next week, showing that blood splotches found on the shorts McTear was wearing at his arrest are a match to Emanuel. They have also found Emanuel's blood on the center console of a car McTear, 26, is suspected of using. The car, a 1997 Chevy Malibu, belongs to his cousin Michelle Higgins, who was forced to testify on Friday over her objections.

Higgins said that in May 2009, McTear was living with her, along with several other relatives. That month, the keys to her car went missing.

Contact Anna M. Phillips at aphillips@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3354. Follow @annamphillips.

Baby found on I-275 suffered extreme trauma, medical examiner says 07/25/14 [Last modified: Friday, July 25, 2014 8:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rubio praises Trump for 'excellent' speech on Afghanistan

    Blogs

    Sen. Marco Rubio praised President Donald Trump's "excellent" speech on Afghanistan. Sen. Bill Nelson was less effusive but agreed with the goal.

  2. Gov. Rick Scott blasts report of shifting words on Charlottesville

    Blogs

    Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most scripted politicians in recent Florida history, said Monday that ‘both sides” bore blame for Charlottesville.

  3. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer

    Nation

    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  4. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry

    Military

    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.
  5. Told not to look, Donald Trump looks at the solar eclipse

    National

    Of course he looked.

    Monday's solar eclipse — life-giving, eye-threatening, ostensibly apolitical — summoned the nation's First Viewer to the Truman Balcony of the White House around 2:38 p.m. Eastern time.

    The executive metaphor came quickly.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump view the solar eclipse from the Truman balcony of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 21, 2017. [Al Drago | New York Times]