Crime

Former York cop killed wife, staged Chester crash to cover crime, prosecutors said in court

Former SC police officer James Baldwin denied bond on murder charge

Former South Carolina police officer James Baldwin of York was denied bond after being arrested in 2018 for murder. He is accused of killing his wife by beating her to death then staging a car crash to cover up the crime. He denies the charges.
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Former South Carolina police officer James Baldwin of York was denied bond after being arrested in 2018 for murder. He is accused of killing his wife by beating her to death then staging a car crash to cover up the crime. He denies the charges.

A former South Carolina police officer charged with killing his wife then trying to cover up the crime with a fake car crash will remain in jail until a trial later this year.

James Harold “Jamie” Baldwin Jr., 59, was arrested in August, more than a year and half after his wife, Judy, was found dead before Christmas in 2016. He was in court Thursday in Chester because he asked for bond after being in jail since his arrest.

Baldwin is accused of beating his wife to death, then claiming she was killed in a Chester County car crash. Baldwin told police he was rushing her to a hospital after she fell while hanging Christmas lights in December 2016.

Prosecutors said Baldwin deliberately wrecked his car into a creek to hide the killing. But after a long investigation by State law Enforcement Division, S.C. Highway patrol and other South Carolina police agencies, authorities said Baldwin beat his wife to death with blows to the head then staged the wreck.

Judy Orr Baldwin had a skull fracture that ran the length of her head, said 6th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Candice Lively. Baldwin then cleaned up all the blood from the crime scene, Lively said.

“She died from a very traumatic blow from this defendant,” Lively said.

Lively said Baldwin is a danger to the public and a flight risk.

“He’s a former police officer and knows the system,” Lively said.

Baldwin formerly was a York Police Department officer before serving with the Columbia Police Department and as a dispatcher with the Chester County Sheriff’s Office.

Judy Orr Baldwin’s two sons, Joshua and Chris Orr, testified Thursday that Baldwin was a “conman” and a “horrible human being.” Both said they feared for their family’s safety if Baldwin is released.

More than 75 people packed the Chester County Courthouse in support of Baldwin remaining jailed.

The Herald was the first media outlet to report in August 2018 that a Chester County grand jury indicted Baldwin on a murder charge.

Baldwin was out on bond for an arson charge for allegedly setting a friends’ home on fire in York County when he was arrested in his wife’s death. Baldwin also is accused of trying to defraud an insurance company after the 2017 fire. Those charges are still pending.

Baldwin did not speak in court Thursday. His lawyer, Phil Jamieson of Rock Hill, said Baldwin denies the charge of murder. Baldwin did not flee during the long investigation and has no criminal conviction record, Jamieson said.

“Mr. Baldwin had this hanging over his head for more than two years and did not flee,” Jamieson said. “He did not act in any way that people say they are scared he would if released.”

Baldwin denies staging the crash or cleaning up blood, Jamieson said.

Baldwin’s daughter, Jessica Moss, said in court her father is not a killer.

“My father is not the monster people are making him out to be,” Moss said.

Visiting Circuit Court Judge Dan Hall of York denied Baldwin bond in court Thursday, saying the allegations are serious and dozens of people sent written letters to the court stating they were scared for their safety if he is released.

Baldwin faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.

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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.

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