Monday, December 11, 2017
News Roundup

Key witness takes stand in McTear murder trial

TAMPA — A year after she caused a mistrial, Jasmine Bedwell came to court again, appearing nervous and eager not to make another mistake.

On Wednesday, the second day of the state's murder trial of Richard McTear Jr., his defense attorneys took Bedwell, the defendant's former girlfriend, back to the predawn hours of May 5, 2009, the day her infant son was found dead on the side of the interstate. She was supposed to deliver a straight-forward story, one that would leave jurors with no doubt about who was responsible for her son's death.

But after relentless cross-examination, defense attorneys had elicited from her two entirely different explanations for what happened to 3-month-old Emanuel Murray.

What the prosecution has said was an act of premeditated murder, Bedwell's testimony clouded with statements that may ultimately aid in McTear's defense.

Asked to recall the events of that night, Bedwell, 22, described how she had returned home from a friend's house in the early morning hours and was attacked by McTear, 26. Her ex-boyfriend had been waiting for her and the moment she locked the front door behind her, he pounced on her with such ferocity that the next day, a dentist was able to take impressions of the bite marks he left on her skin. McTear punched and choked her, she said, leaving her covered in bruises.

Through tears and frequent bouts of sobbing, Bedwell recalled how McTear then reached into the fridge, grabbed a soda, and poured it on her sleeping child's face. He picked up the infant's car seat and threw it across the room, she said. Emanuel began to cry. "Make him shut the f--- up," McTear ordered her.

Sensing this was her moment to escape, Bedwell said she quickly freed Emanuel from the car seat and ran, cradling the baby in her left arm and reaching to unlock the front door with her right. McTear was fast behind her, she said.

"He grabbed the baby, threw him to the concrete," she said, laying blame for the baby's injuries wholly on McTear. Bedwell had once been fond enough of McTear to get his nickname, "Rico," tattooed on her neck, but that was ancient history; her past devotion has been hidden under a rose design. She was covering up for no one, she said, including herself.

In the call to 911 that a hysterical Bedwell made that night, and that the prosecution played for the jury, she can be heard giving a dispatcher this same description of the incident. But as Assistant Public Defender Mike Peacock continued to pelt her with questions, leaping back and forward in time so that Bedwell began to appear confused, she lost control of the narrative. Interviewed by law enforcement officials, she had initially reported that McTear threw the baby carrier twice, but on Wednesday she was saying he'd done it once.

"It's been a long time, I'm having a hard time remembering," she said, eliciting a sarcastic retort from Peacock. "You don't remember how many times your baby was thrown?" he asked.

As she became more distressed, the defense attorney offered a different explanation for the child's fall, suggesting it was an accident, not an act of cruelty by an enraged ex-boyfriend. Emanuel was caught in a tug of war between Bedwell and McTear, Peacock said. Bedwell was pulling him out the door; McTear was grabbing for the boy.

"The baby fell to the ground, is that what happened?" he asked, raising his voice. Bedwell was silent. "Is that what happened?" he tried again. "Yes," she said. A juror began to cry.

The exchanges went to the core of a case that has centered on Bedwell as the sole and problematic witness to McTear's alleged violence. A year ago, the state's first attempt to try McTear for murder ended in a mistrial after she told a jury that her former boyfriend had threatened her child's life. Bedwell had been instructed not to mention this detail in court, as it related to a different case against McTear in which he had been acquitted.

From the start of this second trial, defense attorneys have sought to discredit Bedwell, portraying her as a dishonest young woman who has blamed her son's death on different people at different times. Whether she realized on Wednesday that she may have bolstered their argument was unclear; she left the courtroom in tears.

Prosecutors have said their case is built on much more than Bedwell's testimony. Though no one saw McTear throw Emanuel onto the side of I-275 after the confrontation, as he is accused of doing, Assistant State Attorney Ron Gale has said that DNA found in the blood stains on McTear's shorts matched that of the baby, whose blood also was discovered in the car McTear was known to drive.

Emanuel was killed by "multiple and severe skull fractures," he told jurors on Tuesday. "This could not have happened just by the baby being dropped."

Contact Anna M. Phillips at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354. Follow @annamphillips.

     
   
Comments
Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Uncertain with all the talk about potentially rebuilding if the Rays would go as far as trading franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria?So is he."I don’t know what to think, really,’’ Longoria said via text message Sunday night as t...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Sunny day floods become new norm

WASHINGTON — The tide watchers start patrolling whenever the celestial forces align. From coast to coast, hundreds of tide watchers come out with their cameras to record the latest ‘‘king tides,’’ brief episodes of tidal flooding that could become th...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tiny snowmen appear in Florida as Sunshine State gets snow

Tiny snowmen appear in Florida as Sunshine State gets snow

The "Welcome to Florida" sign in the northwest part of the state was covered in light snow as winter weather dipped into the Sunshine State. It was part of a winter storm that hit the Deep South over the weekend and left thousands of people without p...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Florida professional wrestler arrested, charged with battery of his wife, also a professional wrestler

Florida professional wrestler arrested, charged with battery of his wife, also a professional wrestler

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Wrestler Rich Swann is being held without bail in a Florida jail after he was arrested and charged with battery and false imprisonment. Swann, who is 26 and a former WWE cruiserweight champion, was arrested Saturday. According to ...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Updated: 7 hours ago
Getting around Cuban customs control

Getting around Cuban customs control

HAVANA, CUBA — Ernesto Machado will never forget that cold morning in 1968 at José Martí International Airport in Havana, when an immigration official seized his parents’ gold wedding bands and ripped up his passport."This is property of the revoluti...
Updated: 8 hours ago
FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

Updated: 8 hours ago
Struggling Florida citrus growers face tough decisions

Struggling Florida citrus growers face tough decisions

WINTER HAVEN — Although the 2017-18 citrus harvest has barely begun, growers are already planning for the 2018-19 season, and they have critical decisions to make in the coming months that will affect next season’s crop and perhaps others in years to...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Bucs-Lions journal: Backup lineman was most unlikely of targets

Bucs-Lions journal: Backup lineman was most unlikely of targets

TAMPA — The Bucs’ unlikely comeback to erase a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter was capped by the most unlikely of targets. Tampa Bay tied the game when Jameis Winston threw a 2-yard pass to 305-pound Leonard Wester, a backup lineman who lined ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
New normal: Firefighting at Christmas; U.S. homeless population increases 1st time since 2010; Athletes, celebrities rally for bullied boy; more in U.S. news

New normal: Firefighting at Christmas; U.S. homeless population increases 1st time since 2010; Athletes, celebrities rally for bullied boy; more in U.S. news

CaliforniaNew normal: Christmas firefightingA flare-up on the western edge of Southern California’s largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday. Fire crews saved several homes as unpredictable gusts sent the blaze churning dee...
Updated: 9 hours ago