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Suspected in baby's death, man now accused of killing the boy's mother

CLEARWATER — A caution, typewritten in a report, warned that Craig Alan Wall Sr. was suspected as "the one responsible" for his baby boy's death.

But it never came up at a hearing to decide how much money he would put up to get out of jail on a domestic violence charge.

The prosecutor didn't mention it. Or that Wall had spent 14 years in prison.

He got out on $1,000 bail. Thirty-three hours later, on Wednesday morning, police say he crashed through the sliding glass door of his girlfriend's apartment and stabbed her.

Within 12 days, both mom Laura Taft, 29, and her son Craig Jr., 5 weeks, were dead.

In retrospect, Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said later Wednesday, he wishes his office had more forcefully argued Wall was a threat and pushed for a higher bail.

An assistant state attorney asked for $2,500. A public defender asked for $500. Circuit Judge George Jirotka made it $1,000.

"It's a horrible tragedy from the standpoint, should we have done more?" Bartlett asked. "Absolutely. But given the circumstances, did we see it coming? Absolutely not."

• • •

Wall, 34, had come to the attention of Clearwater police because of the death of the baby he shared with Taft. Police said the baby was in Wall's care on Feb. 5 at a Clearwater apartment when the boy went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Craig Jr., born Dec. 30, was removed from life support and died the next morning.

Later that day, Taft called police because, she said, Wall had threatened to kill himself, according to a search warrant. He was taken in under the state's Baker Act.

Inside the apartment, Clearwater police found what they called a "shrine'' and camera next to the baby's bassinet. Taft found a video in the camera in which Wall said he was "sorry that he did something to the baby and that he did not mean to make the baby cry."

The warrant said the medical examiner's office found the baby had fractured ribs and brain trauma.

Clearwater police said Wednesday their investigation into the baby's death is ongoing. A final report from the medical examiner has not been released.

• • •

As the police investigation into the baby's death continued, Taft filed a domestic violence injunction against Wall.

Her boyfriend of a year, Taft said, had a bad temper and sometimes punched walls or furniture. In January, she said, he blocked the door of their apartment and threatened to kill her.

The order forbade Wall from contacting Taft.

But on Sunday, he showed up at a Largo church during his son's memorial service. Taft said he drove through the parking lot and "flipped her off," an arrest report said.

He was arrested and initially held without bail. The next morning, he was brought before Judge Jirotka, who was filling in as the duty judge that day.

At such hearings, judges and lawyers typically have access to arrest affidavits. And in this case, the arrest affidavit prepared by Largo police explained the history of the case, and said Wall was a suspect "for the infant's death."

In the hearing, Assistant State Attorney James Flynn offered to settle the case if Wall would plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge and agree to pay a $500 fine and $150 in costs.

Wall refused. Jirotka set bail.

By Monday evening, about 26 hours after he was arrested, Wall posted it and walked out.

• • •

On Sunday, the day of her baby's funeral, Laura Taft moved into another apartment in the same complex where she and Wall had lived together.

A neighbor called 911 about 3:20 a.m. Wednesday and reported commotion coming from Taft's home at 470 Fairwood Ave., No. 153, said Elizabeth Watts, Clearwater police spokeswoman.

Police found Taft outside her front doorway with stab wounds. She died at the scene.

Wall was seen driving away from her apartment in a red, four-door car. Clearwater police issued an alert, notifying other agencies to keep an eye out.

About 6 a.m., deputies with the Sumter County Sheriff's Office found the car near Interstate 75. Wall was passed out in the driver's seat. Deputies broke a window to unlock the car door and drag him out.

Wall couldn't walk and didn't speak, but deputies did not smell any alcohol, said the Sumter County Sheriff's Office spokesman, Lt. Bobby Caruthers.

Wall had several seizures as he was taken to Citrus Memorial hospital, deputies said.

Once released from the hospital, he will likely be taken to the Sumter County Jail and officially charged before he is extradited to Pinellas County, Caruthers said.

Watts, the Clearwater spokeswoman, said Wall faces one count of murder.

Pinellas court records show Wall was released from prison in September 2008 after serving 14 years for a 1993 robbery with a deadly weapon, armed burglary and grand theft auto.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, he has several tattoos including swastikas and the term "RAHOWA," an acronym for Racial Holy War. One tattoo is a "Creativity Movement" shield, a white separatist religion.

• • •

At his Largo home, Taft's father, John Bredeson, said his daughter was "an incredible mother, a wonderful person and a marvelous daughter."

His wife and Taft's stepmother, Cynthia Bredeson, said their family has been devastated by two losses in less than two weeks.

"I am very angry that this had to happen. First the baby, we were barely coping with that. And now this."

The Bredesons said Taft "adored" her oldest boy, Connor, who was with his father Wednesday morning when Taft was attacked. He has been told of his mother's death, they said.

Connor turns 6 years old Saturday, without his mom or brother by his side.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at ckrueger@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8232. Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157. Times staff writers Katie Sanders and Kim Wilmath contributed to this report.

Court Hearing: To hear a recording of the court hearing in which bail for Craig Alan Wall Sr. was set at $1,000, go to: links.tampabay.com

Timeline of events

November 1993: Wall is accused of robbing at gunpoint a North Carolina couple visiting St. Petersburg and stealing their car.

October 1994: Wall goes to prison on two concurrent 17-year sentences for robbery with a deadly weapon and armed burglary and a five-year sentence for grand theft.

September 2008: Wall is released from prison after 14 years.

Feb. 5, 2010: Wall calls 911 when his infant stops breathing. Paramedics transport the 5-week-old to All Children's Hospital.

Feb. 6: The infant dies.

Feb. 8: Laura Taft obtains a domestic violence injunction against Wall.

Feb. 14: Wall violates the injunction by showing up at the baby's memorial and is later arrested; Taft moves into a new apartment in the same complex where she and Wall had lived together.

Feb. 17: Police say Wall breaks into Taft's home and stabs her to death.

Suspected in baby's death, man now accused of killing the boy's mother 02/17/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 18, 2010 11:01am]

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