TAMPA — A jury convicted Richard McTear Jr. on Thursday of savagely beating his ex-girlfriend and throwing her baby to its death on the side of Interstate 275 five years ago.
Outside the courtroom, surrounded by a phalanx of friends and relatives, the baby's mother and father held each other in a long embrace. Jasmine Bedwell, 22, a foster child when her baby was conceived, wept on the shoulder of Emanuel Murray Sr., who was in prison on gun charges when his son died. Though neither parent would speak to reporters, the baby's great-uncle, Ike Thompson, offered jurors his thanks and gave them a piece of advice. ...
TAMPA — As he began his closing arguments to jurors Wednesday in the murder trial of Richard McTear Jr., a state prosecutor played a recording of the 911 call made by McTear's ex-girlfriend.
Her shrieks and cries of "He took my baby" from five years ago filled the courtroom.
That is not the voice of a woman scheming to falsely accuse McTear, 26, of murdering her infant son, argued prosecutor Ron Gale....
TAMPA — Jasmine Bedwell says she knows that Richard McTear Jr. killed her infant son five years ago, when she was a teenager living under the watch of Hillsborough County's foster care agency. But that's not what a former caseworker remembers her saying at the time.
Attorneys representing McTear, 26, worked to dismantle Bedwell's version of events Tuesday, calling on her former placement specialist with Camelot Community Care, a contract foster care agency. Keshia Coffie told jurors that Bedwell called her from the hospital on May 5, 2009, the day her son was killed. She was crying hysterically and screaming into the phone....
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....
TAMPA — In her 20 years as a medical examiner, Dr. Laura Hair has seen fractures at the base of victims' skulls in only the most severe circumstances. She's found them in people who died in airplane crashes, in falls from multistory buildings, and in horrific car accidents. She's seen them in people who jumped to their death from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
She's never seen them in a baby dropped from a standing position....
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....
TAMPA — "It's a dirty game" was Richard McTear Jr.'s motto. He had the phrase tattooed on his forearm, and he repeated it to reporters after his arrest five years ago on charges that he murdered his ex-girlfriend's baby and threw the infant onto the side of the interstate.
On Tuesday, the opening day of his trial, McTear's defense attorney Mike Peacock took those words and pointed them at the jury....
TAMPA — Known in Hillsborough County courtrooms for the fear he instilled in veteran lawyers, Norman Cannella Sr. became a legend in Tampa without ever holding elected office.
But Norman Cannella Jr. has other plans. The 46-year-old son of one of Tampa's most prominent criminal defense attorneys is running for a Hillsborough County judgeship, challenging a little-known incumbent who's been on the bench for less than a year....
TAMPA — In a highly unorthodox move, a Tampa defense attorney in an attempted murder case is trying to depose a Hillsborough Circuit judge whose actions after the defendant's arrest have raised questions about whether he violated established procedure.
On Thursday, a Hillsborough judge heard from attorney Mark J. O'Brien, who is representing Matthew Buendia, a former Marine who shot a Hillsborough sheriff's deputy in the fall of 2011. Nearly three years after Buendia's arrest, O'Brien contends that Circuit Judge Chet A. Tharpe and officials with the Hillsborough state attorney's and sheriff's offices worked together to improperly revoke Buendia's bail. If successful, O'Brien's actions could force the spectacle of a veteran jurist made to give out-of-court testimony about his role in the case....
TAMPA — If anyone thought the passage of another year would dim the public's memory of a dead infant on the side of Interstate 275, they were wrong.
Jury selection began on Monday in the state's second attempt to convict Richard McTear Jr. of killing his girlfriend's 3-month-old son, who was tossed from a car window onto the highway. But from the outset, it was clear that the process of finding impartial jurors with little exposure to the facts of the case could be a marathon event....
TAMPA — Jury selection will begin Monday in the state's second attempt to convict Richard McTear Jr. of killing his girlfriend's 3-month-old son and tossing him from a car window onto the highway.
McTear's first murder trial in 2013 ended abruptly days after it began when the baby's mother, Jasmine Bedwell, testified about threats McTear allegedly made toward her infant son. The alleged threats were related to earlier charges of which McTear had been acquitted and were not supposed to be discussed at trial. Bedwell's unexpected comments led the judge to declare a mistrial....
TAMPA — Joshua Hakken, the Tampa engineer who, along with his wife, is accused of kidnapping their children and fleeing to Cuba, is competent to stand trial, defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed on Thursday.
That conclusion comes after more than a year of debate about Hakken's mental state. Arrested in April 2013, Hakken told his attorneys that after a court terminated his and his wife's parental rights, he decided that the U.S. government had put their two young sons in danger. Operating on antigovernment paranoia, the couple took their 2- and 4-year-old boys and the family dog on a voyage of more than 300 miles to Cuba to seek asylum....
07/05/14 Human Interest
It's dark by the time Danny Hartzell pulls his aging Chevy Cavalier into the Walmart parking lot where his family often spends the night.
On this evening in late June, he parks the car and kills the engine, signaling bedtime. No one sleeps much on these tropical nights, but they arrange themselves as if they might, the Hartzells' two teenage children leaning on pillows they've piled between them. From the passenger seat, their mother watches for police cruisers and Walmart employees and anyone else on her growing list of likely saboteurs....
TAMPA — Adm. William H. McRaven, widely credited with planning and launching the mission that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011 shortly before ascending to oversee all special operation forces from Tampa, will retire from the military, a spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command said Monday.
For nearly three years, McRaven has led SOCom, the elite organization that oversees special operations around the world from its headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base. But his retirement has been expected....
TAMPA — Convicted of killing two Tampa police officers and sentenced to death, Dontae Morris will not get a new trial, a Hillsborough County circuit judge ruled Tuesday.
In a six-page decision, Judge William Fuente said the evidence against Morris was too great to merit another trial.
"After reviewing and reweighing the evidence presented during trial, the Court finds there was overwhelming evidence, including a dash-cam video of the shootings, to support the guilty verdicts," Fuente wrote....