Former York police officer found guilty of murder in wife’s death

A former York police officer has been sentenced to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of murder in the 2016 death of his wife, court officials said.

James “Jamie” Baldwin Jr. was found guilty of murder, said Jeff Hammond, Lancaster County Clerk of Court.

A trial that started Oct. 28 lasted through late Tuesday at the Lancaster County Courthouse. Jurors deliberated a little over two hours before rendering the guilty verdict, Hammond said.

Murder carries a minimum sentence of 30 years in prison in South Carolina.

Visiting Circuit Court Judge Dan Hall of York County sentenced Jamie Baldwin to life in prison, according to Hammond and prosecutors.

Judy Orr Baldwin died in Chester on Dec. 14, 2016. She had a 24-centimeter skull fracture, testimony showed.

Baldwin, 60, used to be a police officer for the York Police Department and Columbia Police Department. He also was a dispatcher for the Chester County Sheriff’s Office for a decade.

Prosecutors said in court Judy Baldwin was beaten at her home, then Jamie Baldwin faked a wreck afterward. Sixth Circuit Deputy Solicitor Candice Lively said in court that Baldwin used his police experience to manipulate the investigation.

Judy Baldwin’s family pushed police and prosecutors to investigate the case, testimony showed.

State Law Enforcement Division agents and S.C. Highway Patrol troopers took over the investigation after the Chester County Sheriff’s Office initially did not investigate the death as a homicide, testimony showed.

After the jury verdict, Lively called the conviction one of the most gratifying cases she ever worked. Lively was the lead prosecutor, along with assistant solicitor Jay Johnson.

“I had to watch this family struggle to get justice for the murder of their mother, while also pushing back against a system that wouldn’t help them,” Lively said. “This renews my hope that the small community of Chester will now be able to heal.

Randy Newman, 6th Circuit Solicitor who is the top prosecutor for Chester, Lancaster, and Fairfield counties, also said that the Chester community won a victory with the guilty verdict. Newman pushed SLED and highway patrol troopers to open an investigation into the death months after Judy Orr Baldwin died.

“My heart goes out to the family of Judy Orr Baldwin,” Newman said after the verdict. “I hope they are able to find some closure through this conviction. Deputy Solicitor Lively and Assistant Solicitor Johnson, and our whole staff have worked tirelessly on this case. It is great to see a good outcome for this family, and for the people of Chester.”

Judy Baldwin’s injuries were not consistent with a crash or an accident, prosecutors said.

Jamie Baldwin told police his wife hurt her head in a fall while hanging Christmas ornaments. Baldwin told law enforcement that he was rushing his wife to a hospital when he ran off a rural Chester County road and crashed into a creek.

A medical expert for Baldwin’s defense testified during the trial that Judy Baldwin’s injuries could have been from an accident. Baldwin’s lawyers argued that there was no evidence to show that Judy Baldwin did not die after being injured in a fall.

Baldwin still faces arson and insurance fraud charges in York County from an arrest in 2017, South Carolina court records show. Baldwin is accused of burning down a woman’s mobile home then collecting insurance money on the fire in 2017, according to York County arrest warrants and court records. He was free on bond for the arson and insurance fraud charges when he was arrested in connection with his wife’s death in 2018.

Check back for updates.

Related stories from Rock Hill Herald

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.