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Clearwater murder suspect Craig Wall on jail suicide watch

ST. PETERSBURG — The man police suspect killed his girlfriend and 5-week-old son was on a suicide watch Sunday at the Pinellas County Jail.

Craig Wall Sr., 34, was transported to Pinellas County after a judge in Sumter County, where he was arrested last week, denied him bail Sunday morning.

Wall was booked around noon on a charge of first-degree murder after police said he stabbed Laura Taft, 29, to death early Wednesday at her Clearwater apartment.

He was placed on watch in a single-person cell at the jail's health care facility, said Pinellas sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha. Those deemed at risk for suicide must wear a paper sheet for clothing and are monitored constantly.

A booking report states he has a knife wound, an old scar unrelated to the last week's events, Pasha said, though a week-old report does not declare the wound.

Wall's baby, Craig Jr., was in his care on Feb. 5, a day before the child died. Clearwater police, who are investigating the baby's death, said last week they are awaiting a final report from the medical examiner's office.

Wall has not been charged in that case, though a police report calls him a suspect.

Wall was last in the jail a week ago on a charge he violated a domestic violence injunction sought by his girlfriend by attempting to attend a memorial service for the baby in Largo.

At a hearing to decide on bail for that offense, he was let go after paying $1,000.

Neither the arrest report for the violation that noted he was suspected in his baby's death, nor the 14 years he spent in prison for armed robbery charges, were brought up in that hearing.

Within 33 hours of his release, Taft was dead. Clearwater police said Wall kicked through a door and stabbed her several times.

Hours later, Sumter County deputies found Wall passed out in his car near Interstate 75. He was taken to Citrus Memorial Hospital and then to the Sumter jail. On Sunday, he was sent to Pinellas, where he will face the murder charge.

The state attorney for Pinellas and Pasco counties, Bernie McCabe, said late last week he was "dumbfounded" by the way his office had mishandled the domestic violence hearing that led to Wall's release.

His chief assistant met Friday with prosecutors who handle such cases to review the procedures they should follow.

Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Clearwater murder suspect Craig Wall on jail suicide watch 02/21/10 [Last modified: Sunday, February 21, 2010 10:29pm]
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