The child's lifeless body was found near Interstate 275 north of downtown Tampa early Tuesday. The man, Richard A. McTear Jr., was captured several hours later but has not yet been formally charged. Deputies said he is not the child's father.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said McTear was arguing with his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend, Jasmine Bedwell, at her apartment when he began beating her and the child. She reported that McTear threw her son, Emanuel Wesley Murray, down on the concrete, then picked him up and fled in his Chevrolet Impala.
Jason Bird, a news photographer for WTVT-TV in Tampa, spotted the baby's body on his way to work at about 4:30 a.m.
"On the side of the road, I saw something out of the corner of my eye and at first I thought it was a baby doll, and then as I was thinking about it more I thought that was awfully big for a doll," Bird said in an interview on the station.
He turned around and went back to take another look.
"It was laying there with its eyes open," he said. "I couldn't look at it. It freaked me out, but fortunately law enforcement came right away."
Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said the medical examiner's office will determine at what point the baby died.
"It's hard to find words to describe why someone would do this to a poor, defenseless child," sheriff's Maj. Harold Winsett told reporters at the scene.
Deputies located McTear's car at his home. Witnesses told deputies where he could be found, and he was arrested about four hours later after a foot chase.
McTear has previously been arrested on charges including felony battery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and domestic battery by strangulation. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, McTear was sentenced to two years probation in June 2008 on a felony battery conviction. An arrest warrant was issued when he failed to report.
Last month, Bedwell sought an injunction against McTear for domestic violence, but the case was dropped because she didn't appear in court.
In court papers, Bedwell said McTear was violent, often armed and had a drug problem. She said he had forced his way into her apartment and beat her.
McTear had not yet appeared in court and did not yet have an attorney.
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