LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - We’re now three days into the murder trial of Jamie Baldwin, the former Chester County 911 dispatcher and law enforcement officer, accused of killing his wife and staging a car accident as a cover up back in December of 2016.
In court Wednesday, jurors heard testimony about why it took so long for the case to become a criminal investigation.
“Before we ever left that bridge, I was informed from [Chester County] Detective Chris Reynolds- ‘you know this is not a homicide,’” Chester County Coroner Terry Tinker told jurors from the stand.
Tinker said Judy Baldwin’s injuries told him otherwise, and an autopsy was done the next day.
“When I saw the massive amount of damage, I knew right then I was going to do another autopsy,” added Tinker.
Tinker, who says he knew the victim, said both autopsies were completed within two days of the accident and showed Judy Baldwin died from massive bleeding, a skull fracture and blunt force trauma. Neither concluded how that happened.
“There was an open on the “manner of death” because we hadn’t gotten with the detectives,” said Tinker. He later followed up, “The sheriff of Chester County was not ever willing to help me at all. Never. Ever."
Tinker acknowledged he was referring to suspended Sheriff Alex Underwood.
Former Detective Chris Reynolds also previously acknowledged on the stand that the sheriff’s office didn't investigate the case as criminal. He said while they found blood at the Baldwin home the night of the accident, they didn’t secure the scene or take evidence. He cited his chain of command said they were waiting on Judy Baldwin’s autopsy report to determine if it was criminal.
Tinker told jurors he had to push for further investigation, and had a circuit court judge call a meeting that ultimately brought numerous agencies together. The State Law Enforcement Division then got involved, several months after the alleged accident.
“From that day forward we moved forward, without the help of the sheriff, we all moved forward, to be here where we’re at today,” said Tinker.
During Tinker’s testimony, the state also entered into evidence a picture of the defendant, Jamie Baldwin, and a group of people taken with the suspended sheriff a few months before the alleged accident.
Also in court, an accident reconstruction specialist with the South Carolina Highway Patrol testified about a data recorder inside Baldwin’s car and a perfect tire impression photographed on scene.
“You get a perfect thumbprint-like impression if you’re driving on soft surface slowly,” said Lance Cpl. Brian Trotter who is a part of the South Carolina Highway Patrol’s MAIT (Multi-disciplinary Accident Investigation Team). “That’s not at all consistent with running off the right side of the road at or near the speed limit of 50mph.”
The defense later countered by pointing out the tire print came from just a small stretch of the 186 feet of ground that Baldwin’s car was off the road that night, something Trotter acknowledged.
“Does the information of “no event” image from the EDR (Event Data Recorder) or the DM and the other physical evidence you described to the jury tell you the Jeep driven by James Baldwin on this night was controlled?" Assistant Solicitor Jay Johnson asked.
“Absolutely,” Lance Corporal Trotter answered.
Testimony late Wednesday came from the forensic pathologist who did the second autopsy on Judy Baldwin. She testified she believed Baldwin’s three injuries to the head were consistent with that of being hit.
The state shared a picture of a stocking hanger seen on the floor in the home that was broken.
“Injuries to the forehead could have been made by that instrument- there’s an area that’s triangular-shaped, and a part that’s zigged-zagged,” Dr. Ross testified.
In its cross-examination, the defense argued the pathologist didn’t get the stocking hanger/ornament in hand until after she amended the report to state manner of death was homicide which was in August of 2017. Dr. Ross says she had photographs of the stocking hanger and felt like she had everything she needed.
The defense questioned if Dr. Ross could rule out an accident.
“It’s not consistent to an accident because of injury to two sides of her head,” Dr. Ross replied.
“But you cannot rule out an accident?,” the defense asked again Dr. Ross again.
“Ah, true,” Dr Ross hesitated and then replied.
Deputy Solicitor Candace Lively followed up that line of questioning asking if Dr. Ross answered that way because “a medical opinion is within a reasonable degree of medical certainty” and “she has to consider all possibilities?”
Dr. Ross said yes and upon a follow-up question added, “more likely than not injuries were caused by a beating.”
Baldwin’s trial will continue Thursday in Lancaster County.