TAMPA — Someone reported at least one instance of child abuse involving Emanuel Murray in the baby's brief three months of life, even before he turned up dead along Interstate 275, the Department of Children and Families said Wednesday.
DCF Deputy Regional Director Jan Gregory did not know who made the claim, when the abuse may have happened, or who might have been involved. Gregory said the report could be released publicly today.
It's also unclear if Richard "Ricco" McTear Jr. was a subject of the DCF investigation. He has been charged with homicide in the baby's death. Until recently, McTear lived with Emanuel's mother, Jasmine Bedwell.
Early Tuesday, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies say, McTear, 21, showed up at Bedwell's apartment, attacked her and threw the baby onto the concrete floor. Then, deputies say, he picked up the child and drove away, flinging the infant out of the car on Interstate 275 around Fowler Avenue.
Since April 16, McTear had been a wanted fugitive who had not followed his probation requirements. On state supervision since June 30, 2008, he had been required to complete two years of probation for a felony battery charge, according to state probation records released Wednesday.
Probation officials last had face-to-face contact with McTear on March 12. His probation officer, Elizabeth Kartes, tried to check on him again when she visited Bedwell's home on April 8.
He was gone.
Bedwell, 17, told her that he didn't live there anymore. She said McTear hit her three different times and left. She told Kartes he faced new charges of false imprisonment, child abuse, burglary and battery.
The probation officer checked arrest records. She couldn't find these new charges or anything Bedwell had described.
Jo Ellyn Rackleff, a spokeswoman for the state probation office, surmised that Bedwell either had just filed a police report when the probation officer showed up or was going to.
She continued to search for McTear. Six days later on April 14, Kartes sent a probation violation report to the court, saying McTear had absconded from supervision and hadn't completed his required public service hours.
On April 16, a judge issued a warrant. On April 20, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office assigned a warrant detective to the case. The detective went out twice looking for McTear but couldn't locate him, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.
It's unclear whether Bedwell ever filed a sheriff's report against McTear for the attack she mentioned to the probation officer.
She didn't return a phone call. But she did ask for a temporary injunction or restraining order against McTear on April 7 saying he had beaten her and threatened her. To persuade a judge to grant the order, she needed to show up for a court hearing Monday.
With Emanuel dead, a national outcry followed on cable television and on the streets in Tampa, with people asking why Bedwell didn't do more to protect her son.
Domestic violence abuse experts and victim advocates leapt to her defense in e-mails and letters to the editor saying it's impossible and unfair to second-guess what Bedwell should have done.
Many victims are too scared to follow through on securing restraining orders, fearful that just asking for one could set off their abuser. Sometimes abusers use charm or tears to beg for forgiveness, victim advocates said. Other victims' lives are so busy or entrapped that they can't even get free enough to drive to court.
"It's very frustrating," said state Rep. Michael Scionti, D-Tampa, a former Hillsborough County prosecutor who serves on the board of the Family Justice Center of Tampa, a domestic violence outreach center. "They'll go so far to try and help themselves, but because they're just victims to this cycle of violence, they don't have the confidence, the strength, to break free from their abusers."
At least two other ex-girlfriends in McTear's life tried to obtain restraining orders, as well. One didn't show up in court, too. The other failed to finish required forms.
McTear has an arrest record for domestic violence dating back to the age of 14, state records show.
At his first appearance before a judge Wednesday, he heard his charges: felony kidnapping of a child, two counts of felony battery, aggravated child abuse, two counts of burglary of a dwelling with assault or battery, child abuse, false imprisonment, violating the probation of his prior felony battery conviction and first-degree murder.
He was denied bail.
"Obviously, you won't be getting out of jail anytime soon," Hillsborough Circuit Judge Walter Heinrich said, adding that the case might involve the death penalty.
Justin George can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3368.