LANCASTER, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) Former Chester County 911 Dispatcher and law enforcement officer James Baldwin was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife Judy Orr Baldwin.
The jury deliberated for less than three hours before bringing out the guilty verdict, concluding a week-long trial nearly three years after Judy’s death in 2016. Judy’s family, who says they’ve been fighting for justice for years, got visibly emotional when the verdict was read.
“You feel like you can actually live now,” said Josh Orr, Judy’s son.
Baldwin was first charged with murder in August of 2018, nearly two years after Judy died. Investigators say Baldwin beat Judy at their home in Chester County, and then framed a car accident to cover up her death.
“The devil is in the details,” said Sixth Circuit Deputy Solicitor Candice Lively in her closing arguments, “And the reason that comment is so important is because but for those details, and the defendant manipulating every scene, altering every scenario, but for that, he probably would have gotten away with it.”
Court testimony showed that Judy died on December 14th, 2016 from blunt force trauma. Solicitor Candice Lively said the autopsy report showed a 24 centimeter fracture on her skull.
Baldwin told investigators that Judy, described by witnesses as having a height of 4’11, was using a ladder to decorate a Christmas tree at the couple’s home in Chester County when she fell. Baldwin’s attorney said his client was in the garage getting tools, and when he returned he found Judy on the floor.
“He cleans off her wound like any loving husband would. He realizes, almost immediately, that this is more severe than he can handle,” Baldwin’s attorney said in court.
Baldwin says he was trying to take Judy to Piedmont Medical Center for treatment when a car came into their lane on Old Richburg Road in Chester County, forcing their Jeep off the road and into an embankment under a bridge.
Firefighters that arrived on scene testified that Judy was unresponsive when they got there. In a 911 call made that night, Baldwin is heard telling the dispatcher that he already tried CPR, and that Judy is “not doing anything.”
Lively questioned why Baldwin didn’t call 911 immediately at the home, and why he chose to take her to Piedmont Medical Center when Chester’s hospital was closer.
“He doesn’t call 911. This is a dispatcher. He didn’t call her son, who lives right across the street, didn’t call anyone from her family to tell them ‘I am taking your mom to the hospital,” said Lively, “And there is blood everywhere. You will see photographs from inside the home where she bled at the fireplace mantle.”
The defense argued that Baldwin chose to take Judy to Piedmont because it was a better medical facility.
Investigators said Baldwin used his experience as a law enforcement officer to cover up Judy’s murder, framing the accident on a dark Chester County road to explain her injuries.
“He knows the system, he knows how it works intimately.”
Lively said the Chester County Sheriff’s Office, then under the leadership of former sheriff Alex Underwood, failed to investigate the case properly from the beginning. It was months, Lively said, before SLED was allowed to come in and investigate the case properly.
Lively showed a Facebook photo of Baldwin and Underwood as evidence of their close relationship.
Baldwin’s attorney Philip Jamieson called the picture a “publicity photo that politicians do all the time.”
“There is no evidence whatsoever that Chester County stopped investigating this case or misdirected the investigation because somebody was personal friends with Mr. Baldwin,” said Jamieson.
Last week, the state called Josh Orr to the stand. Orr is Judy’s son from a pervious marriage. Orr says his mother was married to his father for more than 20 years before his dad died in a motorcycle accident.
Orr says both he and his brother were very close to their mom, talking every single day either by phone or in person.
Orr says on the night of his mom’s death, it was his wife that called him and told him that Judy was in the hospital. Orr says he didn’t hear from Baldwin until he saw him in person at the hospital.
“My mom would have called us. My brother lived right there,” testified Orr, saying it is unlike his mother to not call and tell her sons if she had fallen and was going to the hospital.
Orr says when he arrived at Piedmont Medical Center, the administrators couldn’t find his mom in the system, but they did direct him to Baldwin’s room.
“They showed me where his room was and I walked into his room and there was Jamie and Teri King in there,” said Orr on the witness stand.
Earlier in the week, allegations surfaced through testimonies that Baldwin was having an affair with Teri King. King was a member of the same motorcycle club the Baldwins were in. On Thursday, King testified that she did not have a sexual relationship with Baldwin, but confirmed that he moved in with her one and half months after Judy’s death.
“She was very clear with you that she didn’t have an affair with Jamie Baldwin,” said Jamieson in his closing arguments, “She didn’t have an affair before Judy died and she didn’t have an affair after Judy died.”
In recorded interviews with SLED played in court, Baldwin said he was renting a room from King because he could not afford to keep a house. Lively said text messages proved that the relationship was more than just a friendship.
“They were texting one another back and forth ‘You better not be talking to any men.’ You heard her admit that was some of the things he said to her. ‘Boy, you make me happy, I miss you,” said Lively.
Solicitor Candice Lively also played an interview between former Chester County deputy Chris Reynolds and James Baldwin, conducted just a day after Judy’s funeral service, where James says he did not have any problems in his marriage to Judy.
“It was about as perfect as it gets. We had a great relationship.” Baldwin said.
But Josh Orr said though it seemed James and Judy were happy when they got married in the spring of 2012, later on Orr says his mother seemed to be on edge, like she was walking on eggshells.
Orr also said his relationship with Baldwin deteriorated, and that whenever he would come over with his brother, Baldwin would go upstairs.
SLED agent Kristen Grant said six months before Judy’s death, a life insurance policy was taken out on her name which listed James Baldwin as the beneficiary. The defense argued that it was Judy who took out the policy in the first place.
“There is no proof that Jamie even knew the policy existed,” argued Jamieson.
In closing statements, Lively said Baldwin beat Judy on December 14th, 2016, eventually killing her, because he wanted the freedom to live with his girlfriend.
“He murdered her. He did it with malice. He intended to do it so he could move in with his girlfriend which is what he did.” Said Lively.
Baldwin’s attorney called the sequence of events a tragic accident, saying there was no proof that Baldwin was ever abusive towards Judy.
“They never did tell you a single instance, not one in 5 years, of my client raising his voice to her, shouting at her, putting his hands on her, pushing her, shoving her, hitting her. They never told you that. And don’t you think they would have if they could?” Said Jamieson.
Baldwin chose not to testify at his own trial. Judge Dan Hall did give Baldwin an opportunity to speak after the guilty verdict came out but before he sentenced him.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Baldwin before the courtroom, “She fell from a ladder, I’m telling you. I was trying to get her to the hospital. I loved my wife more than anybody in this room. We had a great relationship.”
Baldwin’s attorney, Philip Jamieson, said they plan to file an appeal.
“Obviously my client is very disappointed. We didn’t think the state proved their case and we still don’t think that, but the jury has ruled,” Jamieson told CN2 News after the ruling.
Deputy Solicitor Candice Lively said it’s a relief that the family finally has justice. ‘
“They’ve waited almost three years now, to the date, to get justice for Judy. It’s just really an honor to be a part of it,” she said.
As for Judy’s sons, they say the verdict means they can put her death behind them, and instead remember the good times they had with their mom.
“It was so much tension. You feel like you can breathe now. We can spend time with our family and just laugh, you know, talk about mom and dad. We look forward to that now. We don’t have to bring his name up. We can move on,” said Josh Orr.