Make us your home page

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 [email protected] 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

  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate


    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help


    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  3. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers


    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem


    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  5. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.