Former York cop says on video that fall, crash killed wife; Prosecutors dispute that

A former York police officer on trial in the 2016 death of his wife told South Carolina law enforcement agents his wife died from a accidental fall while hanging Christmas ornaments, testimony showed Friday.

Prosecutors say Jamie Baldwin’s claims are not true.

Prosecutors and State Law Enforcement agents say Baldwin staged the crash to cover up his wife’s 24-centimeter skull fracture.

James Harold “Jamie” Baldwin Jr., 60, was arrested in August 2018 in the death of Judy Orr Baldwin, who had died two years earlier. He is charged with murder and his trial started Oct. 28 at the Lancaster County Courthouse. Jamie Baldwin is a former South Carolina police officer who served in York and Columbia. He also worked at the Chester County Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher for a decade, records show.

The day after Jamie Baldwin was arrested, he asked from jail to speak to police, testimony showed. In that 90-minute interview with SLED agent Kristen Grant, which was recorded on video, Jamie Baldwin said he found his wife on the floor of their home after she fell from a ladder near a Christmas tree. Baldwin told SLED in that interview he was outside when his wife fell.

The video statement Baldwin gave SLED was played for the jury.

“When I came back in, she was there by the fireplace, on the floor,” Baldwin said. “Her head was bleedin’...there was blood all over.”

Baldwin said he then told his wife she had to go to the hospital. His wife was conscious and talking, Baldwin told police.

“The last words she said to me was ‘I love you,’ ” Jamie Baldwin told SLED.

On the way to the hospital, Baldwin told SLED he crashed into a ravine that threw Judy Baldwin out of the Jeep he was driving. Jamie Baldwin told SLED he was knocked out in the crash, but when he awoke he found Judy Baldwin outside the vehicle not breathing. Baldwin said he pulled his wife from the creek and tried to revive her.

Grant said in that 2018 video interview that Judy Baldwin was found in the creek, and the investigation showed no impact, and the crash was staged.

“You are not being honest,” Grant told Baldwin in the 2018 video interview. “You were in law enforcement..I think something happened in that house.”

Police said Baldwin, despite claiming to help his wife after a fall and crash, had no blood on his body or clothes.

Grant told Baldwin in that interview the skull fracture Judy Baldwin had would not have left her able to talk.

“I never laid a hand on her,” Baldwin said. “I loved my wife with all my heart.”

Baldwin’s defense lawyers have said in court Judy Baldwin died after an accidental fall. Phil Jamieson, one of Baldwin’s lawyers, reminded the SLED agent that it was Baldwin who called police after his arrest. In that 90-minute interview, Baldwin said repeatedly his wife died in an accidental fall.

Baldwin’s other lawyer, Brad Jordan, said prosecutors have failed to show evidence of a murder.

“All they have showed is innuendo,” Jordan said.

The trial has included testimony about blood found in the Baldwin home, including high on a wall that prosecutors argued could not be from a fall. Prosecutors also said Baldwin manipulated the investigation because he knew how police operate.

The trial also has brought out testimony that Chester County Sheriff’s Office did not investigate the death properly for several months.

Testimony from SLED agents indicated that Chester County deputies did not submit evidence, blood testing, and other forensics from the crime scene.

Evidence collected was not tested until SLED took over the investigation in August 2017, Grant testified. A pathologist determined in August 2017 that Judy Baldwin’s manner of death was homicide from blunt force trauma to the head, Grant stated.

Baldwin was arrested in 2018. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

The prosecution rested Friday afternoon. The trial is expected to continue next week with the defense case.

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Andrew Dys covers breaking news and public safety for The Herald, where he has been a reporter and columnist since 2000. He has won 51 South Carolina Press Association awards for his coverage of crime, race, justice, and people. He is author of the book “Slice of Dys” and his work is in the U.S. Library of Congress.