TAMPA — The prosecution rested its case Monday in the capital murder trial of Richard McTear Jr., concluding with DNA evidence linking McTear to his ex-girlfriend's baby, who was found dead on the side of Interstate 275.
Holding up clothing taken from McTear after his arrest, a crime lab analyst explained to jurors how she matched the baby's DNA to blood stains on her alleged killer's jean shorts. Blood found on the console of the car he is alleged to have driven contained the baby's DNA as well, said Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst Carol Greenwell.
In the five years since 3-month-old Emanuel Murray was found dead on the side of Interstate 275, no one has come forward to say they saw an infant in a blue onesie fly from a car onto the highway shoulder. And no one has claimed they saw McTear, 26, behind the wheel of his cousin's dark blue Chevy Malibu on the night the baby died.
By the time a local TV station photographer discovered the infant's body on a 3:30 a.m. drive to work, there was no telling how many hours Emanuel had been lying there in the dark.
"I would submit to you there's no clear picture of exactly what occurred on the morning of May 5, 2009," McTear's defense attorney Mike Peacock told the jury on the opening day of the trial last week. "There are no witnesses or other evidence that will say Richard McTear or anyone else … threw a baby from a moving car."
Many of the witnesses the prosecution has produced have arrived in court with shaky memories.
After causing a mistrial last year in McTear's first trial, the baby's mother, Jasmine Bedwell, 22, took the stand again to tell her story of being attacked by McTear when she returned to her apartment after an evening with a male friend. But after initially saying that McTear threw her son onto the concrete outside of her apartment, she agreed to a different version, suggested by defense attorneys, in which the baby was accidentally dropped.
Another witness, a woman who had a son with McTear before splitting from him in 2008, denied ever feeling threatened by him, though she had said in a deposition that he called her and said: "You're next." And a woman who initially said she'd spoken on the phone with McTear the night of the murder later said on the stand that she couldn't recognize his voice, forcing the prosecution to move on without revealing the substance of their conversation to the jury.
Putting human foibles and forgetfulness behind them, prosecutors moved on Monday to introduce the scientific evidence underpinning their case.
Dr. Barry Lipton, Hillsborough's chief forensic odontologist, testified that the bite marks left on Bedwell's skin during the fight preceding the baby's death matched the structure of McTear's mouth. It appeared that McTear had chosen a poor weapon — two of his front teeth have an unusual shape, Lipton said, occurring in less than 2 percent of the population. He was the "probable biter," Lipton said.
Greenwell, who introduced the DNA evidence, said she had found blood stains in 17 places on the shorts McTear was wearing at the time of his arrest. Some of the DNA matched the baby, but other samples contained Bedwell's genetic code. More of her DNA was found on a white tank top McTear is alleged to have worn when he attacked her.
Defense attorneys offered little to counter Greenwell's testimony, other than noting that babies excel at spreading around their DNA. Under questioning, Greenwell allowed that the baby's DNA found on McTear's shorts and in the car could have come from vomit or a leaky diaper. But the defense provided no explanation for the blood stains.
Attorneys for McTear are expected to begin making the case for his innocence today, and the case could go to the jury as early as Wednesday. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Contact Anna M. Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3354. Follow her @annamphillips.