MANATEE — Medical personnel took the stand this morning in the trial of a 23-year-old man accused of beating a 2-year-old boy with a fly swatter and a belt until the child died from his injuries.
Dwight A. Baldwin, 23, faces a charge of first-degree felony murder after Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigators say he beat the child who was in his care on Oct. 27, 2008.
Baldwin told detectives he beat the child, Tez-arrion Armour, with a fly swatter on the buttocks and back after his girlfriend’s 11-year-old son woke him to tell him the child had soiled himself at about 8 a.m.
Baldwin placed Tez-arrion on a training toilet and continued to beat the child after the child fell asleep, according to statements in court. Over the course of a few hours, the child continued to receive beatings.
Assistant State Attorney Cynthia Evers, who is prosecuting the case, told the jury in her opening statements that Baldwin had positioned the training toilet close to the bed, from where he continued to beat the child.
“His frustration, his anger, his rage became so severe the defendant swiftly got out of bed and took the child into (the 11-year-old child’s) room and gave him the final beating of his life,” she said. “He came out of the room with the child’s lifeless body and said something’s wrong.”
Evers said evidence presented in trial will include Tez-arrion’s Spiderman pajamas, a fly swatter broken into two pieces, a black belt and photos of the child's injuries.
Baldwin and his girlfriend, Audrey Lawrence, were in charge of caring for the child because his mother is a drug addict, according to reports.
Lawrence began putting cold water on the child to try to revive him, according to statements.
An emergency room doctor at Manatee Memorial Hospital who treated Tez-arrion, testified the child had blood in his urine, low body temperature, and multiple injuries including bruises and appeared to be in a state of shock and near death.
The child was unable to breathe on his own and was transferred to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg where he later died.
Doctors found the child died from “massive” head injury, according to reports. At the time, the child had no fractures, according to the doctor’s testimony.
Carolyn Schlemmer, a public defender who is representing Baldwin, said her client admits he struck the child, but stressed he never hit the child in the head.
“Keep in mind we don’t know who caused these injuries,” she said in her opening statement. “We have a mystery on our hands.”
Schlemmer said Baldwin cooperated with the investigation by talking with detectives and was concerned about Tez-arrion. She claims Baldwin’s girlfriend at the time, Lawrence, took a deal for a lesser sentence to testify against Baldwin.
According to court documents, Lawrence was sentenced to 364 days in jail for a charge of aggravated child neglect.
In letters to Baldwin, Schlemmer said Lawrence wrote, “I know you didn’t do anything. I’m going on what my lawyer said. ... I know you will protect me in the end.”
Testimony is expected to continue with investigators taking the stand.
Baldwin faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.